Creepy, Crawly Creatures

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comOctober 29, 2013 

Ninjas sprung into action, pirates drew swords, and demure princesses twirled in splendidly colorful style at the 16th annual tarantula festival on Oct. 26.

Traffic congestion only occurs in Coarsegold a few times a year, and this event is one of those times.

Grandparents, parents, children and family dogs converged on the town to observe and participate in pumpkin decorating, screams-to-impress, face painting, best costume, tarantula races, and hairiest legs (not of the spider variety).

The tiny furry stars of the day were surrounded by layers of timid admirers, curious onlookers and the brave-at-heart, who waited patiently to touch or gingerly hold these docile spiders.

The festival is not only good wholesome family fun, but educational, as well. Cathy Dalhed of Oakhurst, who was enjoying the day with her granddaughter, C.J. Johnson, 9, of Clovis, appreciates both aspects.

"C.J. still won't touch or hold a spider," said Dalhed, "but now we hunt for tarantulas around my home — to observe them only."

September through November is tarantula mating season here in Central California. Males are out looking for females because this is their only chance at mating. They either get eaten by something else (sometimes a hungry female tarantula) or the cold winter claims them by December.

The Mountain Area is home to the California Brown tarantula (Aphonopelma iodius), which are small compared to those found in Africa that can jump up to 12-feet to catch a bird-in-flight.Morgan Voorhis/Sierra Star

Ben Bradley, 11, of Coarsegold carefully handles a male tarantula. He described the close encounter as "awesome and ticklish."

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