Wow, pretty beetle! If it hissed at me, I would probably freak out at first too, but they are pretty neat looking things. In Germany we have similar ones but they are called "May Beetle", and are a member of the family scarabaeidae:
Kids of my parents' generation would catch them and play with them, and get paid pretty well for collecting buckets of them as chicken feed for farmers. When I was a kid, they had almost vanished (probably from use of certain insecticides and pesticides that are now illegal) and were pretty rare, so finding one was always a great adventure. I heard that nowadays they have recovered pretty well and are on their way of becoming a pest again. I just read that during a "Plague" in 1911 on 4,448 acres about 22 million of them were collected.