SWEETWATER, Texas -

Friday marks the first official day of the 55th Annual Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater.

The roundup has brought in more than 300,000 pounds of snakes since it began in 1959, but it brings in a substantial amount of revenue to businesses.

“It's an event that has brought millions of dollars to Sweetwater, Texas,” Jacque McCoy, executive vice president of the Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce said. “The hotels stay booked, restaurants, gas, anything. We're just very happy to have this event.”

Amole Restaurant has only been in business in Sweetwater for two years. Employees said they enjoy the influx of new customers the roundup brings.

“It means a lot of business,” Manager Fatima Rostro said. “We get real busy all throughout the day--I mean eight o'clock until about nine o'clock--and we close at nine but usually we close to about 10 because business is so busy.”

The roundup originally began as a way to get rattlesnakes away from local cattle. Today, everything about the snakes is used to make money.

“We use every part of the snake,” McCoy said. “They use the meat, they sell the meat--the Jaycees sell the cooked meat--you can have a sample of it out there or they sell it by the pound. There are vendors for the skin and of course the venom turns into anti-venom shipped all over the United States.”

McCoy said she hopes visitors are able to find sufficient lodging during the roundup since local hotels have been packed with workers from the cline shale oil boom.

The roundup is being held at the Nolan County Coliseum. Doors open at 8 a.m. Friday through Sunday. Tickets cost $5 to $10.

A dance will be held at 9 p.m. Friday with tickets costing a bit more.