Rattlesnake fest board hoping for rescue
Rattlesnake Festival organizers are looking for another organization to take over the annual event held in San Antonio. Members of an organization that holds the October event - the Rattlesnake and Gopher Enthusiasts Board of Directors - met this week to discuss how to keep the 46-year-old event going. Similar to a meeting held last year at this time, there was serious talk of canceling the event. "Someone needs to say something," said veteran organizer and treasurer John Greif. "We're just spinning our wheels here." His wife, Amy, added: "I don't think we can do it this year." A frustrated board president Sam Sessa said, "I'll tell you what would be a step in the right direction," he said, "getting some volunteers to work. I'm tired of it.""We're tired and worn out and no one is stepping forward," said board member Dennis Devine. Eric Herrmann, a second generation organizer, suggested a compromise to canceling the festival. He said they should suspend the festival this year with a view toward reorganization, finding volunteers and resuming in 2014. Instead, board members decided to inquire whether local Rotary clubs might be interested in organizing the event. Will Greif of the San Antonio Rotary Club said that he had been sent by his club's president, Betty Burke, to check on the future of the festival. He said she had volunteered to approach Rotary Assistant Gov. Mike Mira and the Rotary clubs in east Pasco, known as the Rotary East Side Seven, about helping save the event. The San Antonio Rotary Club had already taken over the organizing of the Rattlesnake Run, a popular race that takes place the morning of the Rattlesnake Festival. Mira said in a later interview that the Rotary clubs are interested and will have a meeting Monday to decide whether to pursue the idea. Sessa and Devine will attend the meeting with Mira and the East Side Seven presidents to answer questions. "I hate to see the Rattlesnake Festival go away; it's been here and has been a mainstay of this community for so many years," Mira said. "We're going to talk to our Rotary clubs from this area and see if there is some way that we as an organization can come together and possibly keep the Rattlesnake Festival going. It's a tall task, it's a big job, it is a huge event, but I think that if anybody can pull it off, Rotary clubs can pull it off. There are a lot of members. I don't know the number of all seven clubs together but I'd say we have over 300 members and their families." The Rattlesnake Festival has donated between $15,000 and $20,000 each year to mostly educational and children's organizations in the local area. "I think that it would be a good fundraiser for the (Rotary) projects that we do keep the Rattlesnake Festival going," Mira said. "Each club is autonomous and makes its own decision so if all the clubs want to do it, that would be great, and if some of the clubs want to do it and think we can pull it off, I think we could save this thing." Passing the Rattlesnake Festival torch has a precedent in the event's history. The Rattlesnake Festival was first held on Nov. 4, 1967, as a community project of the San Antonio Junior Chamber of Commerce. In the mid-1970s, the Jaycees gave up their charter and the festival would have come to an end, but Eddie Herrmann, one of the festival's founders, and others decided to establish a sponsoring organization, the Rattlesnake and Gopher Enthusiasts. Herrmann was pleased with the new plan. "It sounds like a good opportunity for the community," he said. "I hope it goes through."