When people think of Austin, words such as sophisticated, trendy, intellectual and eclectic appear. Once a year, the term batty appears. Oh yes, those little creatures of the night, whose antics thrill and scare are celebrated in downtown Austin. Once a year, these creatures are celebrated in an event called Batfest.
The Congress Avenue Ann Richardson Bridge in downtown Austin is home to between one million and a half to two million bats. The Mexican Free Tail bats snooze during the day under the bridge called home. At sunset in a spectacular cloud, these night creatures take to the sky in search of food.
The Mexican Free Tail bat is a medium-sized bat with a length between three and a half to almost five inches long. A bat wingspan is approximately twelve inches, and a body that is black or gray. They search for ants, beetles, moths and leaf hoppers. They have a reputation as a fast flyer because they can catch high-flying moths on their migrations. These bats are a Texas treasure because they keep the environment in balance and save crops from moths and other pests.
A recent addition to Austin festivals started in 2004; this Batfest festival now draws forty thousand people. People come to celebrate the bats and enjoy the music, arts and crafts and food. This festival begins in the early afternoon and ends somewhere about midnight. Batfest has a bat costume contest to delight those who wish to emulate their favorite bat creatures or character, such as Batman or Count Dracula.
With Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World, Batfest offers a variety of music genres guaranteed to delight all music lovers. Batfest showcases local talent on two stages giving people variety of sounds.
Austin artists offer fine handcrafted work during Batfest. Artists present a variety of art including, oils, photography, glass, woodwork and sculpture. People come to Batfest to browse the art and find that special art piece for their homes or to get a jump-start on holiday shopping.
Batfest is one of Austin’s charity festivals. Entrance fees collected are donated to local charities. One favorite charity is Bat Conservation International that takes an active role in the festival. Bat Conversation International provides information to help protect the bats not only in Austin, but worldwide. The goal of Batfest is to have fun, while preserving the future of Austin’s small residents.
The bats are the highlight of the festival. People attending the festival will be able to view these bats when they start their evening journey. Batfest occurs when the baby bats have started to take to the sky, and together with parents make for an impressive spectacle. The bridge is closed during the festival so there are many wonderful places to stand and watch the bats and a word of caution. Location matters and the closer to the bats, the more the opportunity to be sprinkled with tiny presents from bats.
Viewing the bats is not limited to the Batfest, the festival offers an afternoon and evening event to amuse and enjoy. Batfest has an event, a booth, music and activities to delight adults and children. Excellent music, food, arts and crafts and bats, only Austin could provide people with a unique combination of items.
[i] Bat information from Earthlink.com