Several pairs of appendages filled the seats lining the Bessmer conference room Wednesday afternoon, and several more were on display as the program the audience was there for began — with numerous multi-legged critters featured as The Bug Lady returned for Family Time Fun at the Newton Public Library.
A staple of the library's summer program, The Bug Lady (a.k.a. Carrie Tiemeyer) has earned celebrity status locally, as many of those gathered on Wednesday were already familiar with her demonstration and back for more. In some instances, those in the packed crowd of more than 200 were well aware of what was coming next — but that didn't minimize the audible gasps that came when Tiemeyer introduced her baby tarantula, got up close and personal with some cockroaches or dangled her pet snake above some "lucky" volunteers.
Over the years, what started as a way to enhance classroom lessons turned into a full-time commitment for Tiemeyer, who noted she has been in 692 schools since she began nine years ago, and was asked to entertain at 388 birthday parties in the past year. This marks the fifth year The Bug Lady has performed at Family Time Fun.
While some in the crowd had already met The Bug Lady's animals, several were introduced to a vast assortment of creatures, including scorpions, hairless rats, millipedes, guinea pigs and a Double Yellow Amazon parrot who has a craving for McDonalds.
Meeting the animals is just half the fun, though, as The Bug Lady has plenty to share about each of her critters — like the fact that the Madagascar hissing cockroach is a key source of protein in some areas of the world and has more nutrition than a happy meal. For librarian Amy Bayes, that is a key reason why the NPL is happy to keep inviting The Bug Lady back.
"I think it's educational and so many kids don't get to see this sort of thing very often," Bayes said, "and it's a huge crowd. It definitely draws a crowd."
For The Bug Lady, the goal is also to make the event fun for those in attendance — both kids and parents. There may have been some defensive reactions throughout the crowd to some of the critters, but there was at least one request from the audience to keep one of the animals and a general sense of curiosity that permeated throughout the afternoon.
One thing that will never change is how much The Bug Lady loves what she does, and even through some of the creatures may cause some hesitancy during parts of the program, it never fails that she tends to leave the crowd wanting more.
"It's funny to me that when I get done and I say, 'okay, did everybody have fun," Tiemeyer said, "it's like clockwork; everybody looks at the clock, like 'she just got here.' They don't expect an hour and a half to fly by like that."
Closing out the schedule for Family Time Fun at NPL will be a blend of magic, juggling and comedy presented by Happy Faces Entertainment at 1:30 p.m. on July 26.