Dogs navigated around beaded princesses and between tiny, but mighty Power Rangers. The Grim Reaper, chained to the Creeper, quickly finished off ice cream bars while standing in line for a more substantial feast of nachos and hot dogs. A high mound of pumpkins brought out the creative side of young decorators.
But the objective of the 18th Annual Tarantula Festival, which included many competitions, as well as spider races, wasn’t solely about wholesome family fun. It was also educational.
The event offered residents, who spot tarantulas slowly crossing roads or deliberately moving across property lines, a better understanding of these tiny, fuzzy creatures.
“So what do you know about tarantulas,” event organizer Diane Boland asked.
Responses rang out: “They’re big.” “Hairy.” “Scary.”
Not all attending the festival, held Saturday at the Coarsegold Historic Village, would agree with that last assessment.
“Tarantulas are so interesting,” Coarsegold Elementary student Ryan Buckles, 10, explained, “the way they move ... the way they burrow to make homes.” Buckles should know. He’s become somewhat of an expert, having caught tarantulas for several years.
Isaiah Wyn, 9, also a Coarsegold Elementary School student, recently caught a yet-unnamed tarantula along the creek bed behind his home.
He’s excited about his spider, entrusting his guardian, Paul Wyn, to carefully carry it around the festival in a well-ventilated container. The pair were contemplating entering the spider in the races, but were also seeking information on how best to care for it.
September through November is tarantula mating season in Central California. Males are out looking for females because this is their only chance at mating, but they either get eaten by something (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.
For those interested in pet tarantulas, search for Beginners Guide to Tarantula Care online.