Do NOT go to this MN festival if you have chiroptophobia

Encounter creatures of the night this Saturday.
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If you're a Minnesotan with no fear of furry, winged creatures of the night, you won't want to miss a certain festival happening in the Twin Cities this weekend. 

It's the very first Minnesota Bat Festival, which kicks off at the Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington on Saturday morning. 

The free event, which is one of several bat-themed extravaganzas happening around the Midwest this month, promises hands-on activities for the whole family, games, live animals, interactive exhibits, and "a full day of fun and environmental education."

And the best part? If you're willing to hang around (pardon the pun) until sunset, you can go on a "Bat Walk" to see the critters emerge from their slumber and fly off into the night. 

It's all hosted by Michigan's Organization for Bat Conservation, which told GoMN through Facebook that the festival will feature bats from around the world, including some from Africa. 

The group is also putting on similar festivals in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana.

You can find out more about the Minnesota Bat Fest here. And by the way, "chiroptophobia" means "a fear of bats."

It's not easy being a bat these days

There's more than just fun motivating this festival, however. 

The Organization for Bat Conservation says it's also aimed at celebrating "the unique role of bats in ecosystems as insect eaters," and "dispelling myths and misinformation that generate needless fears" that threaten bat survival around the world.

The awareness-raising festival comes as bat populations face a deadly disease called white-nose syndrome, which is killing bats around the country and in Minnesota. 

Sadly, the illness wiped out a majority of Minnesota's largest bat colony last winter.

The U.S. Geological Survey says bats provide American farmers with up to $50 billion worth of "insect suppression services" by eating up crop-killing bugs, a benefit that could vanish with the spread of white nose syndrome. 

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