SAN ANTONIO — Up North, October heralds the start of cooler temperatures, changing leaves and apple-picking season.
Here in Florida, it's time to celebrate venomous reptiles.
As tradition would have it, the San Antonio Rattlesnake Festival & Run kicks off Saturday at City Park and continues Sunday. It's the 50th year for the festival, which takes an educational and altruistic approach to celebrating the much-feared snake. Last year, 5,000 to 6,000 people attended, according to festival chairwoman Betty Burke.
"Ours is one of the few rattlesnake festivals that is solely educational in nature," Burke said, adding that the gopher tortoise, which digs holes in which rattlesnakes often reside, will get some attention as well.
The festival, sponsored by the San Antonio Rotary Club, begins Saturday morning with the 38th annual Rattlesnake Run, which will start at the park and follow a hilly, winding course in the local countryside.
There will be plenty of other activities to take in at the event, Burke said, including live music pretty much around the clock. Among those taking the stage will be Jesse and Noah Bellamy — sons of David Bellamy, of Bellamy Brothers fame.
Artisans will sell their wares in the park. Add to that fire dancers, cowboys, jugglers, snake and alligator exhibits, K-9 demonstrations, a pioneer village, a farmers market, a pumpkin patch, a beer garden and an assortment of food trucks. For kids, there will be pony rides, face painting, a farm exhibit and games.
Adventurous festival-goers can take a turn on a mechanical bull or scale a rock-climbing wall. Local churches and organizations will sell cookbooks featuring local recipes, and history buffs can peruse old photographs from previous Rattlesnake Festivals at a special history booth.
As in years past, the event, which was started by the Jaycees, will help support the community and beyond.
"The festival was started as a community fundraiser for community needs," Burke said, noting that the event is run solely by volunteers and has funded such things as the installation of bleachers, a basketball court and playground equipment in the park, as well as helping those in need.
Last year, about $14,000 was raised, which went to educational scholarships, purchasing school supplies for children, literacy projects and local food banks. This year, one of Rotary's main initiatives is to eradicate polio worldwide, so the Rotary Club will be selling two donated handmade quilts to help that campaign.
Contact Michele Miller at email@example.com. Follow @MicheleMiller52.