SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For 65 years, the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup has been a staple for the Sweetwater community and has made a huge impact, according to Sweetwater Jaycees member Ted Thomas.

“This was back in 2015. It had an $8.4 million impact on Sweetwater and Nolan County,” Thomas shared.

The Sweetwater Jaycees hold this annual roundup to help control the population of rattlesnakes in the Big Country.

“By 65 years of it, we can prove we’re not hurting the population we’re just trying to control them like any other species,” said Sweetwater Jaycee Dennis Cumbie.

Although, not everyone shares the same ideas about the roundup, such as a protestor who did not want to reveal his name but goes by Vegan.

“We’re out here because we’re against animal torture, animal abuse, animal cruelty. You name it, we’re against it,” Vegan expressed.

Thomas, who has been a Sweetwater Jaycee since 1987 and past president of the organization, said they do not shy away from protestors.

“We definitely welcome protestors, but we feel they have their right to voice their opinion and we’ve done that for many years,” Thomas explained.

Protestors have named many reasons why they do not like the annual roundup.

“There are other roundups around the country that have banned abusing animals. They can teach children about snakes without killing them or without torturing them,” Vegan expressed.

Each year, the roundup extracts venom from the snakes who, according to Sweetwater Jaycee Dennis Cumbie, serve a major purpose.

“Venom has saved a lot of lives because the venom is used to make anti-venom. It’s also been used for like 68 different drugs that have patents on them that involve different aspects of the venom,” Cumbie said.

As for how the venom is used, there are many views from people inside and outside of the Nolan County Coliseum.

“This facility is not FDA approved. This venom is not medicine. They’re not using it for that,” Vegan shared. “If you go speak to the Jaycee people, they’ll say they’re not using it for all that. This is a money-making place.”

Despite this, Cumbie shared this is not the case.

“Well, we’re a non-profit organization and not one of us draws one penny. We’re not paid. We’re all volunteers,” Cumbie responded. “Even the money we earn from this event is going back to charitable organizations.” 

Regardless, Thomas added he would welcome open communication with those who protest this event.

“Not everybody has to agree with them and if they were to come here and have a candid conversation and let us speak with them about what we do and how the events have an impact on our community. Maybe they would change their opinion but maybe not,” Thomas expressed.

This annual event, which has made a name for itself as the world’s largest roundup of rattlesnakes, has brought both protestors and fans to Sweetwater since the first roundup in 1958.