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12 August . 2016

Love bats? 12th Annual Bat Fest set for August 20 in Downtown Austin

We love to highlight the many Hill Country events and attractions near Sweetwater, and now we’re calling attention to a bat-tastic event coming to the heart of Downtown Austin. (Thanks to Sweetwater’s prime location, that’s only 22 miles away!)

It’s the 12 Annual Bat Fest on Saturday, August 20, from 4 p.m. to midnight. The hours are perfect for beating the heat, but most importantly for celebrating the emergence of 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats from beneath the Congress Avenue bridge over Lady Bird Lake.

Bat Fest will feature three stages of live music, more than 75 arts and crafts vendors, delicious food and drinks, fun children’s activities, and bat activities including a bat costume contest. Admission is $25 cash at the gate. Kids eight and under get in free with an adult.

The main event, of course, will be the flight of the bats into the evening sky at dusk. If you miss Bat Fest, you can watch the bats emerge any night from March through November.

The Congress Avenue bats have become such an iconic part of Austin’s identity, it’s hard to imagine the city without them. But did you know they are a relatively recent phenomenon?

It wasn’t until the Congress bridge over Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake) was widened in 1980 that the bats started to arrive. Workers added 16-inch expansion joints and one-inch holes that retained the sun’s heat through the night, paving the way for it to become home to the world’s largest urban bat colony.

To pique your bat interest, here are some fun facts from articles at Austin Monthly and Austin.com:

  • Austin’s colony is made up almost entirely of pregnant females. Scientists believe the males stay behind in Mexico, but they’re not sure why.

  • The females give birth to one pup in the first week of June. At night, they hunt for food for themselves and their newborn.

  • The bats eat from 10,000 to 30,000 pounds of insects each night, providing a very valuable service for Texans.

  • Bat guano is a great organic fertilizer and insecticide.

  • Bats have built-in GPS and night vision, belying the phrase “blind as a bat.”

Austin’s bats are a strong economic force, drawing an estimated 100,000 visitors a year and generating more than $10 million in annual tourist spending.