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American Bats First Day Ceremony

Austin, Texas, home of the world's largest urban bat colony, played host for the American Bats first day ceremony on Friday the 13th.  Prior to the 7:00pm ceremony, there were a couple of other events held in connection with the stamps release.  Located at the Crockett Center in Austin, the public was invited to help build a 23x35-foot replica of the Leaf-Nosed Bat stamp.  How fitting it was that the approximately six of us philatelists set out to complete the area surrounding the "USA 37" on the stamp with black legos.  It took a while, yet it was well worth it.  Starting at 5:30pm in the observation area for the Congress Avenue Bridge, the public was invited to come early to the ceremony and build your own bat house.  Approximately 100 people participated in the bat house building, which was sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and Home Depot.

African Fruit BatThe Postal Service retail area was set up near the stage along with a tent for the local stamp club.  Additionally, Bat Conservation International, Inc. had their own booth with first day covers and even a couple live bats for viewing.  Denise Meikel of Bat Conservation International, Inc. explained in an interview for the Virtual Stamp Club that the bats underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge were "Mexican Free-tailed bats." The bats that were in a cage at their booth were "Straw-colored Flying Fox Fruit Bats," said Denise adding that these bats are their "bat ambasadors" as they are easier for the public to relate to.

Virginia NoelkeThe ceremony was scheduled to begin at 7:00pm yet started fifteen minutes late.  Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee Chair, Dr. Virginia Noelke started the ceremony by introducing the honored guests.  Alice A. Purviance invited the audience to sing along as she sang the National Anthem.  Community Developement Director for the Austin-American-Statesman Retta Kelley spoke on what an honor it was to have the bat observation located on their property and commented that the bats that are now at the bridge first arrived only in the 1980s.

Dr. Merlin TuttleFounder and President of Bat Conservation International, Inc., Dr. Merlin D. Tuttle commented that with the issuance of these stamps, it is a key marker to conservation and rectifing the bad image of bats among Americans.  He stated on any given night, the bats in Austin eat 300,000 pounds of insects and attract $8 million dollars in tourism revenue annually.  Dr. Tuttle's photographs are featured on the four postage stamps and also the selvage of the stamp sheet.

Congressman DoggettPhilatelist and Congressman Lloyd Doggett from Austin spoke next telling the bats to "eat up" in regards to the mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.  Also, he stated that in China bats are believed to bring good fortune.

Editor for the National Wildlife Federation Gerry Bishop described what Ranger Rick is doing with the current issue on the topic of American Bats.  He proclaimed that it was "high time bats got the honor" of a postage stamp.  He also stated that it is a challenge to get people to love bats as they are in the "unhugables" category of animals.  He concluded his speech hoping that someday he would see a mail truck go by and see the "magestic eagle replaced with a bat" in reference to the US Postal Service's logo.

Robert RiderRobert F. Rider, chairman of the presidentially appointed Postal Service Board of Governors officially kicked off National Stamp Collecting Month (one month early) with the official dedication of the new American Bats stamps. After his speech, he asked the ceremony participants to join him in unveiling the new stamps.

Four images of the Bats at night. (click for larger image)

Photo taken right after stamp unveiling.
(click for larger image)

Replica of the LEGO Leaf-Nosed Bat stamp.
(click for larger image)

Congress Avenue Bridge with Austin Skyline.
(click for larger image)

Jay Bigalke
© 2002

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