There’s a documentary about a strange pageant that isn’t strange enough.
Every year since 1958, in Sweetwater, Texas, the Sweetwater Jaycees conduct the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. Hundreds or even thousands of rattlesnakes are captured and turned into exhibits, boots, and, of course, delicious snake meats. The festival includes a gun and coin show, a literal giant tub of snakes, and the Miss Snake Charmer beauty pageant.
If you’re from a small town you’re probably familiar with a festival like this. I’ve been around Florida to many of their festivals, ranging from watermelon to railroad to ‘possum (not to be confused with opossum, which is how it’s spelled by Yankees). All of them are usually fun, local events that are designed to boost the local economy. Much like the Rattlesnake Roundup, there’s often a beauty pageant or a similar contest associated with it. Sadly, the Miss Snake Charmer pageant is pretty much the same as those: Cute and unconventional, but only moderately interesting.
When this documentary started, I imagine that the people filming it assumed that any festival dedicated to capturing hundreds of rattlesnakes must inherently be staffed by the kind of crazy people that we usually see only in Christopher Guest movies. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most of the people featured, ranging from the festival hosts to the pageant contestants, are painfully normal. Despite the fact that they hold a festival dedicated to poisonous snakes, the citizens of Sweetwater are mostly just regular folks, most of whom only value the festival for the fact that it clears out snakes and brings in revenue. Given that the town of less than 11,000 people gets an $8.3 Million boost from the festival, that’s understandable.
While, yes, the media day for the pageant does include having the girls kill and skin a rattlesnake, the other parts of the event are fairly mundane. It’s not that it’s not a nice pageant, it’s very well done, but it’s not likely to be what you envision when you hear “Miss Snake Charmer.” It would likely have been more fun to follow a snake handler church service. Honestly, the roundup looks fun, it just doesn’t have anything too out of the ordinary.
Overall, the documentary is a bit of a letdown, unless you want to see a literal tub of snakes. This seems like the kind of thing that needs to be seen live to be fully enjoyed.
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