gI_0_0_CoarsegoldTarantula3Anyone driving through California’s gold country later this month to enjoy spectacular autumn foliage could be in for a big surprise if they drive south on Highway 41 and end up in the small town of Coarsegold just outside of Mariposa county.

Sure, on the outside it looks like a quiet old gold town where nothing much is happening. But look closer and the place is alive…with tarantulas.

Seriously. Mid-October to mid-November is tarantula mating season in this part of the county and instead of letting it creep them out, the residents of Coarsegold have turned it into a party with the creepy-crawly tarantulas being the guests of honor.

Over the past twelve years, the town has held the Coarsegold Tarantula Festival which includes tarantula racing, a competition for the hairiest legs of both men and women, and a pumpkin dessert contest.

It’s BYOT  (bring your own tarantula) for the tarantula races. I’m not sure how they are trained but the races consist of heats of ten hairy spiders making their way through a dryer tuber, with a handler at each end. At stake – a gift certificate and the coveted Tarantula trophy.

None of the tarantulas, by the way, are harmed in the races and most are released back into the wild once the festival is over.

And for anyone who feels the urge to scream at the sight of all these hairy eight legged creatures (and who wouldn’t), there’s an a ‘scream off event’ scheduled where everyone is encouraged to let loose with blood-curdling screams.

If this sounds like your type of fun, this year’s Tarantula Festival is being held on October 24th in the town’s Historic Village. You can’t miss it. Just look for the giant tarantula sculpture sitting in the tree!

This slideshow from the 2007 Coarsegold Tarantula Festival highlights Coarsegold’s love affair with tarantulas.

For the record, I haven’t attended any of the Tarantula Festivals. And I can’t say I have any plans to in the future.  It’s just a little too hairy and creepy for me!

(image source)

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.