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Snakes guest of honor at Apache festival

APACHE  The town of Apache was packed to its scales Friday for the first full day of the annual Apache Rattlesnake Festival.

Ron Orf, fangmaster, said he couldn't have asked for better weather with bright, sunny skies with a cool breeze blowing through downtown. Thousands packed the streets, shopping at the hundreds of vendors and food trucks. Stay out of the Snake Pit, Butcher Shop and Photo Booth and one would never know snakes were around. But this is their festival and most, like 5-year-old Elijah Yeatts, came to see the slithering reptiles. 

"This is his first festival," said mother Carey Yeatts. "He's been looking forward to it for weeks." 

The young boy had his face pressed to the plexiglass barrier that surrounds the Snake Pit while Orf repositioned a snake to get a closer look. Yeatts said her boy was very, very happy.

"He's not afraid of them at all," she said. "It's one of his favorite things."

Nearby, Livia Denton and friend Rylee Morgan took advantage of the opportunity to pet one of the few non-venomous snakes in the pit. Denton said she wishes she could take one of the snakes  even a rattlesnake  home with her. Orf declined the offer.

"I love animals," she said. "I love snakes. I love these little snakes because they're just so cute. Well, not little."

Her friend, Morgan, was less enamored with the cold-blooded creatures and was content to stay on the other side of the Plexiglass barrier  even if she did reach out and pet one. An Apache native, Morgan has visited plenty of rattlesnake festivals. But Friday marked the first time Denton had attended one since she was a very young child. 

"I've been wanting to go and I talked to her and we both decided we would come out today and have a good time," Denton said. 

Next door, in the Butcher Shop, onlookers watched with a mix of horror and fascination as the head of a rattlesnake was cut off with an ax before it was set to be butchered. But what was truly horrific to those in attendance was how the snake head  completely separated from its long body  was still very active and dangerous. The stored heat in a baseball cap was enough to incite the head to try to strike, even as it had no body to propel it. 

After visiting both snake destinations, many wandered the flea market and vendor area set up in downtown Apache. The carnival wouldn't begin until later in the evening, so many children found entertainment in the nearby pony rides or by picking out new toys to purchase. Rush Dipprey, 2, wasn't enamored with new plastic gadgets  or even the copious amounts of food available  but rather with a reptile of the four-legged variety  an iguana. The two began a brief staring contest, of which the lizard took victory. Father Justin Dipprey said his son was having a blast and was actually excited to see the snakes.

The Lawton Constitution

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