SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Sweetwater residents are preparing for this weekend’s Rattlesnake Gravel Grind – a bike race fundraiser to raise money for the five Nolan County Volunteer Fire Departments. The number of participants has already doubled before the second annual fundraiser has even begun. 

In the first year, more than 100 participants raised $30,000. Now with more than 200 participants, Lake Sweetwater VFD’s fire chief Pete Gizzi shared that they hope to raise more money during a time when it is needed the most.

“We are absolutely out of gear right now… Just a regular wild land set of gear is over $1,200 and that’s not for the greatest, but something that we can consider safe and protect them bare minimum out on a fire. A good set? Probably $2,500,” Gizzi explained.

Gizzi has been the fire chief for three years and said this past year, they have struggled more than ever due to inflation like many other volunteer fire departments. 

“Just half a tank of fuel on one of our trucks is over $100,” shared Gizzi. “When I first started, half a tank would be around $70.” 

The community of Sweetwater and people from around the world are coming together to help raise money for the volunteer fire departments in Nolan county at the Rattlesnake Gravel Grind.  Jimmy Hendrix, Co-chairman for the bike race, shared people from all over will gather for this event.

“It’s a gravel bike race… We have international riders, we’ve got a couple of riders from Mexico. We have people from all over the United States,” Hendrix explained.

Courtesy of Marc AR – @velophoto.tx 

Hendrix is hopeful that with double the number of participants from last year, more money will be fundraised to help the volunteer fire departments.

“Because they are all rural and outside of town, it’s not highly visible and every dollar counts,” added Hendrix. 

Chief Gizzi said he is thankful for the help because all of the volunteer fire departments in Nolan County are facing struggles right now. 

“Fundraisers are not bringing in as much as they used to, and our expenses have gone up drastically,” Gizzi stated. 

The event will run March 24-26 with an after-party for participants and registration is still open at this time. Visit the Rattlesnake Gravel Grind’s website for more details about this event.