OPP — Kenn Howell picked up his first rattlesnake in 1971 on a dare.
Howell and a friend had gone to a racetrack and his friend found a snake.
“He threw one on the ground and said he was going to pick it up one time,” Howell said. “He picked it up, put it back down and turned to me and said, ‘It’s your turn.’ I’ve been picking up snakes ever since then.”
Howell was one of the wranglers at the 53rd Annual Rattlesnake Rodeo in Opp on Friday. Howell and other wranglers displayed snakes they had caught in the local area to event attendees.
For Howell, the thrill involved in handling snakes and the opportunity to demonstrate man’s dominion over nature keeps him involved in snake wrangling. He said snakes are surprisingly strong, but the secret to safely handling them is to avoid trying to manhandle them, but instead firmly, but gently picking them up.
James King attended the event with his wife and children.
“It teaches them in a safe environment,” he said.
Hannah King, 6, said her family recently had an encounter with a snake.
“There was one in the chicken coop and mommy ran and zig-zagged,” she said.
Howell said he enjoys participating in rattlesnake rodeos and round-ups because it gives him the opportunity to educate the public about an interesting part of their environment.
Opp Mayor John Bartholomew said the two-day annual event draws about 20,000 people to the city. Bartholomew said the event provides affordable entertainment and an opportunity for urban populations to learn about the outdoors.
“Who wouldn’t want to see snakes?” said Tom Reese, an Enterprise resident.
The event will continue Saturday with more demonstrations and musical performances by local and regional artists.