BELDING — As Christina Funk strolled around the center room of the Belrockton Museum Saturday afternoon, 6-year-old Xander Rickert sat patiently in excitement as Funk carried an often misunderstood creature within her hands.
Rickert, among 65 other visitors to the museum, knew what he was in store for him and was hoping for a very close look at the mysterious animal Funk was presenting to children and parents around the room.
As Funk steadily made her way around the room toward him, Rickert looked at his father, Robert, and smiled with glee.
Once Funk finally stood in front of him, Rickert’s eyes grew large as his smile instantly changed into an open gasp.
She was holding a large Egyptian Fruit Bat, just inches in front of him.
“I really enjoyed looking at the bats,” Rickert said. “I saw a dead one in my nana’s basement before, but this was so much better. It was so cool.”
Funk was at the museum Saturday with four different live bats on hand for the “Bats at the BEL” event as part of an effort to bring unique programs to the BEL Children’s Museum at the historic Belrockton.
Funk opened with an informational power-point presentation, teaching the visitors to the museum about the history and general knowledge of bats in Michigan and across the world.
“The big thing that we’re trying to do is give people exposure to these animals that they have heard about but might not know that much about,” Funk said. “This gives people a closer exposure so they might not be as fearful of bats.”
For the most part the group of interested visitors was unafraid and took in a new view of the nocturnal insect eater that dominates the nighttime skies.
“Often times when people get to see bats up close and want to see a little bit of information about them, their views often change,” Funk said. “It’s just a way for us to get people to learn about them and educate them. In turn, that helps protect the bats.”
Funk displayed the local big grown bat, native to Michigan, as well as several foreign bats such as the Egyptian Fruit Bat.
Tom Fagerlin, who helps operate the museum with his wife and Belding Museum Advisory Board Director Barb Fagerlin, helped bring Funk to the museum, who works for the Organization for Bat Conservation out of Bloomfield Hills.
Tom Fagerlin saw the presentation previously in Engadine while vacationing in the Upper Peninsula and decided it was something that would be a great opener to a series of presentations planned for the BEL.
“I liked it so well I thought we need to bring it here,” he said. “This was out first program of this nature. We’re trying to integrate three to four programs like this at the museum a year.”
Tom Fagerlin said he would have liked to see around 100 people in attendance Saturday, but was happy, especially when he saw the reaction from many children in the audience.
“It’s just great, there were so many young kids here today, you could just see their faces light up when she brought out those bats,” he said. “Everyone who was here got a close-up look at some very unique bats. There was a little girl here who had two to three really good questions. That’s at least one person who left satisfied, so today’s event was worth it.”
The children’s museum recently opened in the autumn of 2012, but Fagerlin said museum organizers now want to help bring more special free events to draw in larger crowds.
Fagerlin said the next two events at the museum, located at 108 Hanover St. in Belding, are lined up and being planned, but dates have yet to be set.