From ReporterNews, Sweetwater, TX: Miss Snake Charmer Pageant honors Women Air Force Service Pilots
SWEETWATER — The Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup paid tribute to the Women Air Force Service Pilots, the first women to fly American military aircraft, Thursday night with Wings Across Sweetwater as the theme of this year's Miss Snake Charmer Pageant.
Pageant co-chairwomen Carola Martin and Laura Gilbert used their connections at the National WASP World War II Museum in Sweetwater to arrange for former WASP Mary Alice Putnam Vandeventer to attend the pageant, greeting audience members as they entered the Municipal Auditorium.
Several girls stopped to get Vandeventer's autograph and have their photo taken with the former pilot.
"I love to encourage young girls to have an interest in aviation whenever I can," she said.
Vandeventer is one of the final members of the first group of women to serve as pilots for military aircraft during World War II. The WASPs were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their service in 2010, when fewer than 300 of them were still living.
The 89-year-old Lueders native said that medal was the beginning of a string of recognitions she has received, and that attending an event like the pageant is an honor.
The Rattlesnake Roundup, organized by the Sweetwater Jaycees and now in its 53rd year, is billed as the largest gathering of rattlesnakes in the world.
The parade, originally scheduled for Thursday afternoon, was canceled because of bad weather, which could continue to affect the rattler celebration Friday.
Jaycee Clint Parks said the snakes brought in Friday morning, while caught several weeks ago, will not be as aggressive in colder temperatures.