Hundreds of children and adults gathered at the Pearl on Saturday to attend the culmination of the three-day Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, which began Thursday at the Instituto Cultural de México.
Costumes were commonplace at the festival, with adults and children dressed up as butterflies, wearing wings, antennae, butterfly hats and crowns, and more. With eyes and mouths wide open in awe, children sat on their parents' shoulders and gathered around festival organizers near the Pearl Stable to experience two butterfly releases.
Little girls in colorful dresses and other children with painted butterflies on their faces gasped and clapped as dozens of Monarch butterflies spread their wings to take flight. Some disappeared into the sky, while others wound their way through the crowd and landed on shoes, hands, and heads to bask in the sun.
A butterfly parade, led by the “Pedaling Pollinators” from San Antonio Earn a Bike Co-op, also delighted children of all ages with special "butterfly bikes" crafted for the occasion.
"I like the butterflies because they have pretty wings" said Lily, 7. "And the caterpillars are so cute and fluffy."
Monika Maeckle, organizer of the event and founder of Texas Butterfly Ranch, told the crowd Saturday about San Antonio's importance in the Monarch Butterfly migration route. The butterflies migrate through the “Texas Funnel” as they make their way from Mexico to the U.S., so it's a pivotal stopping point on their journey.
"The Monarch migration, as a phenomenon, is definitely at risk," Maeckle told the Rivard Report.
During the festival's panel on Friday at the Pearl Studio, experts talked about issues stemming from climate change like warmer temperatures and the lack of humidity for the Oyamel trees in Michoacán, which are beginning to negatively affect the Monarch Butterfly roosting sites, and in the future, could make the current migration pattern disappear.
The event, which coincided with the Pearl Farmers Market, proved to be a learning experience for everyone in attendance, too. Several organizations set up booths around the premises to sell native plants, put on interactive games for children, inform attendees about conservation initiatives, educate people on the important role butterflies and pollinators play in the food chain, explain the butterfly metamorphosis, and more.
"This isn't just an event for the butterflies, but an event for us to understand and teach kids the importance of conservation and how nature is so important in our lives," said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), who interacted with several children during the event.
Throughout the festivities, festival organizers informed attendees about the Monarch butterfly tagging process, explaining that the tags help create a database to keep track of butterflies when they migrate south to Mexico.
One woman, Marilou De Maeyer, came all the way from Canada just for the festival. De Maeyer raises Monarchs and helps tag them in her hometown of Chatham, Ontario.
"Texas interested me ... because they funnel down right through here and there's a great chance to see them down here," she said. "I raise butterflies and I tagged about 200 of them this year. I've been raising them since I was a child, over 50 years."
Vanessa Granado, who was born in Chicago but has lived in San Antonio for 30 years, said that for her, butterflies have a very deep meaning. Her name, in Greek, means butterfly. In addition, she said her father called her "my little butterfly" when she was a child.
"I just love butterflies – my whole house and garden is filled with butterflies, " she said. "The other reason they are so special to me is that I went to church and got saved – it means transformation and it's in the bible. In Corinthians it says that when you come to the lord you get rid of your old ways and you become new. And that's the transformation of a butterfly."
The Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival is sponsored by the Pearl, Trinity University, H-E-B, San Antonio River Authority, Rivard Report, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Texas Butterfly Ranch