COARSEGOLD – If the little hairs on the back of your neck are standing up, that could be a sign that it’s almost time for the 17th Annual Coarsegold Tarantula Awareness Festival. Watch out for spiders and freaky fun for all ages on Saturday, Oct. 25, from 10 a.m. until the last tarantula crosses the finish line sometime before dark, at Coarsegold Historic Village. All activities are free.
Contests make the day go round, and there’s something for just about everybody, even the family dog. Choose to enter for the title “best pumpkin pie,” do some free pumpkin decorating, and relax on the grass while you listen to tarantula prose and competitive screaming. Be sure to watch out for the hairy legs contests, plus bubble-gum and pizza-eating (not together), costume contest parades for kids and pets, and plenty of live entertainment.
If you’ve never been to the Tarantula Festival, you have something to look forward to, provided you can stand occupying roughly the same space as the norotiously hairy-legged arachnids that are known to migrate in Coarsegold in the cooler months of fall.
Each year the Sierra foothill community of Coarsegold hosts an event unique to the Sierra Nevada foothills. Saturday, October 25, heralds the return of the Coarsegold Tarantula Awareness Festival.
The small town celebrates the emergence of the eight-legged creatures as they come out of their burrows in search of a mate before they hunker down over the winter. In the foothills, tarantula sightings forecast both cooler temperatures and the approaching rainy season, something central valley and foothill communities welcome.
While some people may shy away from them, the tarantulas are harmless and an important part of the local ecosystem. One of the purposes of the event is to educate people on the importance of tarantulas.
“I’ve had hundreds of people who say they spared the life of a tarantula because of the festival,” said Diane Boland, creator of the event. “People report they now gently move them from places they’re not wanted, instead of resorting to a shoe or bug spray.”
Boland actually started the event when she was new to Coarsegold herself. She accidentally ran over a tarantula and was admonished by her neighbor. That inspired her to ensure others didn’t make similar mistakes.
“I wanted to make people aware of how interesting tarantulas are, how they really are good for the environment, unique to the mountains and really a lot of fun,” she said.
The event features numerous activities including the popular tarantula races, hairiest leg contests for both men and women, as well as costume contests, baking contests and art activities for kids. There are also various vendors and the chance for kids to learn about tarantulas from experts, and even hold one.
The festival starts at 10:30 with the final tarantula race starting at 5 pm.
Special vendors, tasty foods, crafts and great prizes for contest-winners are all part of the package. For instance, the winner of this year’s pumpkin pie contest will receive a one-night stay at a local resort.
Yosemite Bank is sponsoring the poem-writing contest, as they have for the past 16 years, according to organizers.
Stick around for the educational parts, where kids and adults alike can learn about our eight-legged spidery friends, with presentations from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., and the tarantula races, as well.
You can also check out the free health fair going on in the Village Park from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The more you participate, the more fun you’ll have, so roll up your pants, prep your vocal chords and figure out what kind of pumpkin pie you’re going to make. The Tarantula Festival is coming to town. For some of us, it’s the greatest time of year. For more info, to participate or to arrange for a vendor booth, phone (559) 683-3900.
Schedule of events:
10:30 – 11 a.m. Best Pumpkin Pie Contest
11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Decorate Pumpkins
Sponsored by Coarsegold Chamber
11:05 – 11:25 a.m. Tarantula Poem Contest & Reading
Sponsored by Yosemite Bank
11:30 – noon Scream Off Contest
Sponsored by Richard Boland Yacht Sales
12:05 – 12:35 p.m. Community Dance & Theatre Performance
12:45 – 1:05 p.m. Hairy Leg Contest-Men & Women (ages 16-99)
1:30 – 1:50 p.m. Children’s Tarantula Race (ages 3-8)
Sponsored by Zanders Coffee
1:55 – 2:45 p.m. Bubble Gum Blowing Contest
2:15 – 2:45 p.m. Pizza Eating Contest
Sponsored by Gold Mine Pizza
2:50 – 3:20 p.m. Children’s Costume Contest
Trick or Treat Parade with parents
Sponsored by Coarsegold Peddlers Market
3:25 – 3:35 p.m. Pumpkin Decorating Awards
3:45 – 4:10 p.m. Dance Demo
4:15 – 4:45 p.m. Pet Costume Contest and Parade
Sponsored by Coarsegold Pharmacy
4:45 – 5:00 p.m. Pumpkin Dance Sponsored by the Chatter
5:00—Close Live Tarantula Derby! Sponsored by Richard & Diane Boland