For a 45th time, the regional spotlight will shine directly on the City of Claxton as thousands flock to the annual Claxton Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, formerly the Rattlesnake Roundup, for two days of activities beginning this weekend.
To phrase it differently, “Things are about to get wild in Claxton,” said Bruce Purcell, Club President of the Evans County Wildlife Club, who hosts the yearly affair.
Wilder than ever, if the amount and variety of furry guests means anything.
This year marks the first time in the event’s long history in which the two-day festival, beginning Saturday, will widen its focus to celebrate all parts of the animal kingdom rather than just rattlesnakes.
According to Purcell, this year’s celebration will reunite its visitors with all that has come to be associated with the event — a parade, pageant, games and rattlesnakes galore — while introducing them to a slew of new animals and attractions.
“It is all coming together amazingly well,” said Purcell, about the Wildlife Festival — which will welcome people from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. “We are going to have a huge number of rattlesnakes this year, plus a large amount of other species of snakes. And there are a lot more things to come and see: fish, birds, snakes and even lions, tigers and zebras.”
The Evans County Wildlife Club decided to expand the event’s animal lineup in order to create a better opportunity for teaching the importance wildlife and its environment.
“We thought: since we are a wildlife club, why not just add all other sorts of wildlife to the festival,” Purcell said. “We want to educate and promote wildlife. We are trying to promote common-sense preservation.”
“We are going to have a lot of educational displays and shows promoting good wildlife preservation,” he said. “It is going to be a great festival for anyone that likes the outdoors and wildlife.”
In addition to creatures, the festival is slated to host a wide array of activities, spaced throughout the weekend.
“It will be a great opportunity and offer a ton of family fun,” Purcell said. “We have got the parade at 10 a.m. Saturday; we have a beauty pageant, tons of arts and crafts, kids’ games, and rides.”
Also, The Center for Wildlife Education at Georgia Southern University will be on-hand to perform shows with birds of prey, and the Miami-Dade Animal Rescue Unit will be in town to film an upcoming television show for Animal Planet, he said.
According to Purcell, signs will direct incoming traffic to parking along U.S. Highway 280, located off of U.S. Highway 301 running through Claxton.
Price for admission will be $5, though children younger than six years old will be allowed in for free.
Those hosting the festival hope its recent changes — which include dropping “roundup” from the event’s name as a result of no longer allowing buying and selling of snakes for competition and prizes — lead to a record crowd.
“Last year, we had an attendance of 15,000 people,” said Tammi Hall, Executive Director of The Claxton-Evans County Chamber of Commerce. “With the added attractions this year, we are hoping for about 18,000 to 20,000 visitors over the two days.”
“We’re very excited,” she said. “This event has as great an impact on our community as any event we hold throughout the year. We are excited about the large number of visitors that are coming in and know that this is a chance to showcase our community.”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.