“Night Wing” bat sculpture at Congress Avenue and Barton Springs Road
I went a little batty this evening. Actually, the whole family did. We dressed up in our batty best (notice the earrings?) and went downtown to the 3rd annual Batfest, a street festival/live-music/bat-watching party held entirely on the Congress Avenue Bridge, also home to 1.5 million Mexican freetailed bats.
The bats, which make up the largest urban bat colony in North America, live in crevices under the bridge and are a big attraction for tourists and locals alike, who gather on the shores of Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) and on the bridge to watch them emerge at sunset. Batfest takes a natural phenomenon in Austin and makes a party out of it. Garden Rant gals, you’d have loved it. Here’s a tour.
How can you have a festival in Texas without big belt buckles for sale? Here’s a unique scorpion buckle. What, no bat ones?
The tattoos were on display as well.
A Corvette batmobile drew admiration from the guys and kids.
Several booths offered free bat-making crafts for kids.
We all tried a Pickle pop, but for me one taste was enough. My pickle-loving son ate about half of it. My husband’s face shows what he thought.
Afterward we browsed the booths. This bat-hatted woman was hawking T-shirts.
Even the jewelry makers had gone batty in their decorating. The bat lurking over this customer is Halloween-worthy. Scary!
This shirt vendor was wearing his wares. Check out that skulls-and-roses print! That’s something every gardener needs, right? Actually, we’ve seen this vendor before, and my dad has purchased that exact shirt. It’s a conversation starter anytime he wears it.
At the north end of the bridge, with the Capitol building in the background, Del Castillo’s crew was setting up for a closing show. I wish we could have seen them, but we had the kids with us and couldn’t make it that late.
Austin icons: music stage and the Capitol building
As the sun set, the waiting game began. When would those bats come out for dinner? We all gathered on the east side of the bridge to watch and wait.
Some opted to wait on boats.
Others waited on land.
Watching and waiting.
Not watching or waiting.
What was the hold up? An hour passed as people sipped their drinks, occasionally craning their necks looking over the bridge rail, and kids grew bored. Where were the bats? A chant of “Bats! Bats! Bats!” arose and quickly died. We fiddled with our cameras as daylight faded.
Meanwhile, a black swan visited each canoe in turn to look for handouts.
That was entertaining for a while.
Even the Hyatt got into the spirit.
Eventually, when it was fully dark, bats came out and flew in dizzying circles under the bridge, but they didn’t emerge in the big stream that I’ve always seen before. Even if they had, it might have been too dark to see. An explanation for the disappointing bat show that I overheard is that our rainy summer produced so many mosquitoes and other bugs that the bats are fat and happy. They aren’t as hungry, so they emerge later, and they can stay under the bridge and still find enough to eat.
By this time, the kids were cranky and tired, so we headed for the car. But an act at the south end of the bridge stopped us in our tracks. Ray Wylie Hubbard was jamming on stage, singing “Snake Farm.” The kids love that song, so we stayed for a few more, swaying to the music, watching people dance, and enjoying the soft breezes from the lake.
You gotta love Texas roadhouse music. Especially when you’re on a bridge downtown and the bats didn’t show.
That’s OK. We brought some bats home, and anyway we can go see them whenever we want. The next time you’re in Austin, I hope that you get to see them too.