Colorado Town Embraces Its Spookiest Inhabitants Just In Time For Halloween

What has fur, fangs, and is ready for love?

collage featuring spider, pumpkins and a state sign Lumiphil, sassy1902, Chely, wirakorn, Solvers | Canva, La Junta | Wikipedia 

The town of La Junta, Colorado is a dry environment, home to just over 7,300 people. Its high plains terrain creates open swaths of land, scattered with prairie grass and sagebrush. It’s the perfect place to visit in autumn — especially for one species of 8-legged creepy-crawlers.

The Colorado town embraced its spookiest inhabitants with its 2nd Annual Tarantula Festival.

For humans, September and October signify the start of the school year. For the tarantula population, those months mean one thing and one thing only — mating season. As the weather in southeastern Colorado cools down, tarantulas venture far from their underground burrows, looking for love, or at least a way to be fruitful and multiply. 


While the spiders made moves to find suitable mates, the people of La Junta celebrated their presence during the La Junta Tarantula Fest, which lasted from September 29 until September 30, 2023.

The festival brought in visitors from Colorado and beyond, as people came to La Junta in hopes of witnessing furry, fanged friends on their journey to find equally furry, sharp-fanged partners to make baby spiders with. 

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Once a male tarantula reaches adulthood, it has an 18-month window left to live, so its main concern is mating. Upon finding a lady tarantula who piques his interest, the male tarantula uses his reserves of silk to weave a web mat onto a flat surface, which is where the magic happens. He inserts his short, leg-like appendages, called pedipalps, into the female’s abdomen, and viola — the deed is done.

The male tarantula doesn’t stay to be the big spoon, though — he runs away before the female tarantula’s appetite comes back, and she makes her lover into a meal.

Celebrating the tarantulas' presence with a festival is a unique, community-oriented way to bring people together, just in time for spooky season.

As noted by Pamela Denahy, La Junta’s tourism director, "Never did I think that they would be a tourism draw."

People both old and young came out to taste food sold by local vendors, get their faces painted, and watch the parade of tarantula floats. There were even games where a person could channel their inner tarantula with the human hairy legs contest and an eight-legged race.


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La Junta hopes that their spooky spider celebration puts them on the map as the Tarantula Capital Of The World.

The festival wasn’t solely fun and games — it featured an educational element, as well. Dr. Paula Cushing, Spider Expert, gave an inaugural talk on the first day, followed by a tarantula movie, for anyone who wanted to see the spiders scurry across the silver screen.

woman posing with tarantula on her facePhoto: 100 files / Pexels 


Dallas Haselhuhn, a tarantula researcher with Eastern Michigan University's Shillington Arachnid Laboratory, spoke to the need for more in-depth research into the species. Despite people’s fascination with these spiders, tarantulas aren’t widely researched. Haselhun’s previous work has focused on counting the tarantula population and observing their mating behavior as it relates to seasonal changes in temperature. 

More research into the spiders means a stronger understanding of how the tarantula population's behavior and rituals are affected by human-steered events, like climate change and land development. There's a lot left to learn about tarantulas, and La Junta is the place to go to satisfy anyone's urgent spider or Halloween-themed needs.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers community events, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.