BYOT (Bring Your Own Tarantula) To California Town's Tarantula Fest
While cities usher in October with Oktoberfest and Halloween-related festivals, small-town Coarsegold, California, marks it with a celebration of the tarantula. This place has so much tarantula love that a massive spider sculpture sits atop the city’s Historic Village and killing one is a major faux paux. The 11th annual Coarsegold Tarantula Festival pays homage to the eight-legged spiders with a day of events on October 24.
Officials say the reason why the old mining town reveres the creepy-crawly spiders is that residents take pride in their natural surroundings, especially the diverse wildlife. The tarantulas are unique to the area, and as such the residents protect them as an integral part of the community. "When we first moved here, I accidentally ran over a tarantula and was severely admonished by a neighbor," says Dian Boland, the founder of the event. The incident prompted her to learn more about the misunderstood creatures. The more she learned, the more she wanted to honor the tarantula. "I wanted to make people aware of how interesting they are, how they really are good for the environment and unique to the mountains up here and really a lot of fun,” she says.
There's more predictable festival fare, such as a cheesecake contest, pizza-eating contest, trick-or-treat parade for the kiddies and poetry contest. But the reason people attend is for the tarantula races, which have heats of ten arachnids making their way through a dryer tube, with a handler at each end. Locals BYOT (bring their own tarantulas) in hopes of winning a $50 gift certificate and tarantula trophy.
And in case you're worried, no tarantulas are harmed in the races and organizers encourage handlers to return tarantulas to the wild (unless they were previously pets, which apparently isn't unusual). As a tribute to the hairy, leggy critters, the festival holds a hairiest leg contest for both the fellas and the ladies. There's also a scream-off, where competitors break out their best horror-movie shriek to see who has the most blood-curdling scream. That shouldn't be so hard, since there'll be a ton of tarantulas crawling around.
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