Go Batty at Unique Missouri Festival

The public is invited to Missouri’s first ever Bat Festival on Saturday, April 21, at Onondaga Cave State Park at the Leasburg exit off Interstate 44.

Rob Mies, the director and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation, is coming and bringing some of his furry friends, including a Malayan flying fox, which, with its six-foot wingspan, is the largest bat in the world.

The organization presents some 1,500 live shows a year to educate people about one of the world’s most unique, and misunderstood, animals.

Rob Mies of the Organization for Bat Conservation holds a Malayan flying fox, the largest bat in the world.

Mies, pronounced “my-ess,” has become somewhat of a celebrity; his work has been featured in television documentaries and he has made appearances on shows hosted by Ellen Degeneres, Conan O’Brien and Regis and Kelly.

Mies’ talks will range from how a homeowner can humanely evict bats from the attic, to how a gardener can attract them to eat bugs.

Missouri State Parks got the idea for holding a bat festival after U-Haul, the truck rental company, decided to feature Onondaga Cave and its bats on graphics on the sides of some 1,900 new trucks scheduled to hit the road in mid-October. The “Venture Across America” graphics program includes little known facts and mysteries found in the various states.

The Missouri graphic will explain echolocation, the method by which bats communicate, for travelers who go to uhaul.com. The graphic features a bat flying over a map of the state, with a star pointing out the location of Onondaga Cave State Park. A second bat snoozes upside down. Both are red bats, which are found in the woods of the state park.

A truck bearing the Missouri graphic will be unveiled on Saturday at the festival. The festival will be held from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with the unveiling at noon.

Bat houses – along with bat jewelry, bat puppets, bat mobiles and all things batty – will be available for purchase at the festival. The event also will have barbecue, bluegrass music, volunteers from caving organizations and booths manned by master gardeners and naturalists. Onondaga Cave, one of the state’s most stunning, will be open for tours during the festival.

The festival actually starts on Friday, April 20, but is open that first day only to some 600 pre-registered school children who will be treated to their own show with Mies and to free cave tours. On Saturday, cave tours will be discounted for the public. The tours will be $10 for adults, and $5 for kids 6 to 12. The regular price is $12 and $7.  All other programs at the festival are free.

Bats are an integral part of the chain of life, and play an important role in the entire ecosystem by eating insects that can be pests to people and agriculture. Onondaga Cave contains up to 1,000 bats, which are among the 68 species found in the cave, from tiny invertebrates to grotto salamanders.

Onondaga Cave State Park is located seven miles south of the Interstate 44 Leasburg exit on Highway H in Crawford County. For more information about the park and the event, contact the park at 573-245-6576 or visit MoStateParks.com.

Written by Tom Uhlenbrock, Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks

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