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Museum visitors enjoy festive time on a warm fall day

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At the 6th annual Anniston Museum and Gardens Fall Fest, Joshua Dunn and Malakhi Carpenter visit a spooky addition to museum decor.

It seemed like old times at the Anniston Museum and Gardens Fall Fest on Saturday as hundreds of people enjoyed themselves in the Indian summer sun, learning about the natural world and simply taking a break from COVID fatigue.

Last year’s festival was canceled due to the pandemic but with COVID numbers on the decline around here, people were ready to get outside and just enjoy a touch of autumn colors. 

Multiple parking lots were needed to handle visitors’ cars, so Dan Spaulding, the museum’s senior curator, was ferrying folks around in a museum van.

“It is so good to have people back at the museum after a year of just kinda quiet, last year we canceled our fall fest, and to have people back, it’s a wonderful thing,” Spaulding said as he readied to pick up another load of Fall Fest revelers. 

Temperatures were in the low 80s for most of the day — not exactly fall-like.

“You’d expect a fall fest a little bit cooler but it feels like the beginning of summer,” Spaulding said. 

Families and their kids soaked up the carnival-like atmosphere as the sweet smell of BBQ from a food truck wafted through the air.

Cecilia Johnson, collections assistant at the museum, gave a “creepy crawler” animal presentation with spiders and an exotic cockroach. 

Johnson held up a clear plastic container with a tarantula spider and entertained as well as educated the crowd about the habits of the large arachnid.

A kid asked why the spider had such “chunky” legs and Johnson explained that spiders of this variety weigh 175 grams and need those legs to transport their body weight.

Then Johnson pulled out a very large Madagascar hissing cockroach and carried it on her hand much to the amazement of the kids in attendance as “ooohs” and “ahhhs” were heard. 

Some of the activities included I Spy! hayride, nature scavenger hunt, inflatable slide, exotic mask display and petting zoos.

Alfonso Truss brought his family to one of the petting zoos that featured miniature donkeys. 

Truss’s son, Ash,2, was enjoying the donkeys as they could see eye-to-eye due to the short stature of the animals. 

Truss was pleased with the festival and said the best part was the petting zoos.

“We thought it was awesome, it was great, great for the kids, great experience, the weather is perfect,” Truss said. 

In an area called “Kids’ Corner” children  created Halloween and fall themed art. James Johnson, 8, colored an outline of a bat.

“It kinda looks like the Batman symbol, because I’ve seen it on TV,” Johnson said.

Alan Robison, director of the Anniston Museum and Gardens, was busy helping with the nature scavenger hunt and other duties as needed and said things were going very well.

 “We’re very excited about the turnout, it’s been very steady, very positive, everyone is having a great time learning and exploring together with their families, it’s great,” he said. 

Pleased with the cooperative weather, Robison said everyone he encountered was happy and positive about their time at the Fall Fest. 

 “They’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to get out and learn together, everyone has been very excited about what they’ve seen so far,” Robison said. 

“My favorite thing is found in the faces of the kids and the parents — families interacting with each other from the animal presentations to the educational outreach, the herpetological society, the petting zoo,” Robison said. “Just all these different ways of getting and engaging people and making connections, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”