HISTORY OF THE DIAMONDBACK JUBILEE
The time was right. There was growing popularity in snake shows; Lometa had its own resident snake hunter, and the town had a man with a vision of lowering the rattlesnake population. The year was 1969.
Bunt Dean was snake hunting in the surrounding areas and catching a sizeable number of snakes. He was taking them wherever there was a snake show, and he wasn't getting much out of it except the fun of catching them and knowing that he was disposing of snakes that might otherwise bite someone or do damage to livestock.
Clyde Glimp, being a survivor of a rattlesnake bite when he was a teen-ager, had been doing some thinking about the overabundance of the venomous creatures around Lometa. On a Sunday morning at church, he suggested to Dean that a snake show might work in Lometa. Dean agreed and said he would help with the knowledge he had gained at other shows around the country.
Glimp knew that such an undertaking would require considerable assistance. He went to Robert Butler, Archie Murphy and Bill Wittenburg. Together, they decided to call a meeting at the Cottage Cafe in Lometa. At this meeting, 40-50 citizens carne together.
It was decided to have an event called The Diamondback Jubilee. It was decided to be co-sponsored by the Lometa Lions Club and the Lampasas County Farm Bureau. It was to be held the last Saturday in March, the first show being March 28, 1970. Another decision made that day was that it would be a real bargain - NO CHARGE. Rules for snake entries were decided on and are listed as follows:
- All snakes become property of The Diamondback Jubilee on arrival.
- All snakes eligible for prize money must be caught in Lampasas County or Lometa ISD, certified by landowner or operator.
- Prize money and sale money will be distributed on a percentage basis after all sale checks are cleared.
- Sale of snakes will be by private treaty or auction as snake committee determines the better method.
- In-eligible snakes (out-of-county) will be weighed on arrival, put in pits and sold with eligible snakes. Original owner will be paid on weigh in weight, less a small commission for extra expense and death loss. This will be done after all sale checks have cleared.
- No snake trading, buying or selling will be permitted other than by jubilee snake committee.
That first show added life to a normally quiet town with dignitaries such as Texas U. S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen and U.S. Representative W.R. Poage in attendance. The first show had a few snakes (200 or so), and the counting was done from the containers in which they were brought.
Prizes for the longest snake and most snakes were presented from the back of a pick-up truck parked in front of Citizens State Bank. These monetary awards, obtained from voluntary contributions and $1.00 per snake bounty the county paid, were given to Bunt Dean and J.B. Jennings. This team continued to win during the early years.
Early hunters were Butler, Dean, Glimp and Wittenburg along with Robert Borchardt, Bo Brown, Fred Herring, J.B. Jennings, C.F. Oney, Archie Murphy, Hubert Stanridge and Joe Wittenburg.
After the snakes were sold and the grounds were cleaned up, plans for the second jubilee were already in progress.
The second year the "Snakeshow" was held, an art, crafts and antique show was added. There were 95 exhibitors who only displayed their collections. No sales were made. In the first few years, Mildred Bohning, Bob and Bobbie Dyer, Ruth Gadbury, Beth Hightower, Jean Kirby, Pearl Tally and Naomi Wittenburg were the organizers of this popular exhibit. It evolved into what is now the flea market.
That year there were 330 live snakes, and a prize was added to be given to the hunter traveling the longest distance.
Through the years, the format of The Diamondback Jubilee changed in order to bring in more people to the town. On a stock trailer parked on the north side of the bank, Robert Butler served as Master of Ceremonies for many years for the stage programs which included everything from fiddle playing to rattlesnake milking. Travis Herring and Mary Ethel McAnelly, along with Foy Gibson in the early days of the show, lined up concerts by the Fort Hood Armored Division Bands, flyovers by the Confederate Air Force, static displays of army equipment, shoot outs, rappelling demonstrations, costume promenades, western bands and a bevy of local talent.
In 1975, the first East of the Colorado Chili Cook-Offwas held under the direction of Bill Wittenburg. Kathryn Butler won "Best Woman's Chili" and the team of Norris Monroe and V.T. Weeks won "Best Over-All Chili". The chili cook-off continued to be a popular, fun -loving, spirited contest through the years.
Other events held in conjunction with the annual salute to the eradication of rattlesnakes have included a fireman's barbeque, armadillo races, auctions, political rallies, a bucking bull, 10,000 meter run, tours of Lometa, horse drawn wagon rides, talent shows, class reunions, street dances and queen contests.
The queen contest, under the auspices of the Lometa Lions Club, was held for many years. In 1972, Ester Resa was crowned the first "Miss Diamondback". Her prize, other than the queen' s crown, was having a street in Lometa named in her honor. All proceeds from this contest benefited the Lions Club in their community efforts.
Through the years, there have been activities that made "the event", eventful and memorable.
In 1975, heat lamps were brought in to keep the cold-blooded critters warm.
1976 was the year aficionados of the snake show traveled to Waco to appear on the "Johnny Watkins" television program. Being a cold day, the snakes were inactive UNTIL they were released under the studio lights. Needless to say, they became active and created quite a stir.
The weather always played a major role in the staging of the show. Rain nearly caused the show to be cancelled in 1977.
1978 was a year of firsts. Governor Dolph Briscoe came to town, Bo Brown became the flea market chairman, the carnival came, and snakes brought $3.00 per pound.
The 1981 show was dedicated to the memory of Bunt Dean, and the first sponsored dance was held at the Legion Hall.
In 1991, Clyde Glimp served as general chairman for the last time.
The unique factor of the Diamondback Jubilee is that its founders never intended it to be a fund raiser; they just wanted to get rid of snakes, and have some entertainment in the process. They never seriously envisioned that it would become one of the biggest shows of its kind. It has endured for decades and has become a date when friends meet friends.
The efforts of community members to put on a good show and a good time for visitors to our town have been appreciated by those near and those far away.
Written for Lometa Lions Club by Janie Glimp Potts and derived from published articles in the Lampasas-Dispatch Record, February and March issues, 1969-1991.