The seventh annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival launched at Brackenridge Park on October 8, with thousands of butterfly and pollinator fans convening to celebrate the storied insects that traverse Texas each fall. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg inaugurated the day with a ride on the San Antonio Zoo’s newly anointed Caterpillar Train.

Nirenberg encouraged festival goers to have a great time, but reminded them to “learn about the important part these critters play in our ecosystem,” he said. “Remember, changes at a local level can have a big impact.” 

Arlo Dickey, age 4, ponders the magic of a monarch butterfly at this year’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival. Photo courtesy Juliette Montoya

This was the second festival for Juliette Montoya and her daughters Arlo and Ada. Her family left the park with a free mountain laurel tree and native milkweed plant, courtesy of the San Antonio Parks Department and San Antonio Water Systems’ tree and plant adoption events.

“It was awesome,” said Montoya, noting that the Monarch Butterfly Obstacle Course organized by Blooming with Birdie and which occupied much of the Pecan Grove at Brackenridge, was “the most amazing activity for kids–so interactive, smiles all around.”

“And then we got to tag and release a monarch butterfly,” said Montoya. “That was the coolest part of all. It was extra special to have it pause on Arlo’s finger. Like birthday, Christmas and Fourth of July all in one.”

More than 400 monarch butterflies were tagged for Monarch Watch. The citizen science initiative helps scientists track the migration by having volunteers adhere a small, round sticker with a letter/number code to the discal cell of the butterfly’s wing. The date, time place and sex of the butterfly is recorded and then sent to Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas. The butterflies continue their journey to Mexico and when they die, are recovered from the forest floor and their tag numbers are reported. Monarch Watch announces a recovery list each spring.

This year’s Festival included more than 30 education partners offering an array of educational activities and takeaways. Native seed packets, butterfly tattoos, pollinator plants, gardening wisdom and arts and crafts contributed to the mix of family friendly fun.

Community partners of the Festival, the mission-aligned organizations that donate their time and effort to offer educational programming, seemed pleased with the new venue.

“I feel it’s the perfect roost–community, education, family fun, and natural habitat,” said Drake White, the Festival’s chief tagging docent and owner of the Nectar Bar.

“We were never overwhelmed and had a constant stream of families with children and people seemed really engaged,” said Lee Marlowe, president of the Native Plant Society of San Antonio. 

San Antonio’s Parks Department offered 1,750 native milkweed plants for adoption and made 975 free trees available. SAWS made 918 native Salvias available for adoption.

More than 600 people signed up for the Forever Journey, whereby they submit the name of someone who died to be assigned to a tagged monarch. San Antonio artist Terry Ybañez constructed a seven-foot tall altar bearing the Virgen de Guadalupe. The altar, installed on a cypress-tree lined island near the Pecan Grove, honored victims of the Robb Elementary school shooting in Uvalde that occurred on May 24. The names of the 19 children and two teachers who were massacred that day were inscribed on its trunk.

  • San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and designer Cecilia Garcia Hours of MP Studio ride the Caterpillar Train. Photo by Bria Woods
  • Kids of all ages romp the Pecan Grove with Urban-15's butterfly troupe. Photo by Bria Woods
  • Children watch as a tagged monarch butterfly gets ready for its first flight. Photo by Bria Woods
  • Festival manager Ashley Bird of Blooming with Birdie gets the kids ready for their Monarch Butterfly Obstacle Course. Photo by Bria Woods
  • A tagged monarch butterfly nectars on Gregg's Purple Mistflower at teh 2022 Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival Photo by Bria Woods
  • Linda Sierra returned to tag a monarch in memory of her husband Roland. Last year, her husband's butterfly "made it" and was recovered in Mexico as part of the Forever Journey campaign. Photo by Drake White

Linda Sierra of San Antonio arrived at the Festival with the goal of tagging a butterfly in honor of her husband Roland. Sierra had submitted her husband’s name to the Forever Journey last year and was pleasantly surprised when she received a call from the Texas Butterfly Ranch alerting her that her husband’s butterfly had made it to Mexico and been recovered in the Mexican mountains.

“I tagged a butterfly in honor of my husband, Roland Sierra,” said his widow Linda. When Sierra received news that her husband’s butterfly had made it, “I cried, I was excited, I was happy…I knew it was my husband reaching out to me.”

To date, five butterflies associated with the Forever Journey campaign have been recovered and reported.

TOP PHOTO: Tagged monarch on native milkweed. Photo by Drake White

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