San Antonio’s much celebrated Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival morphs to the next stage this year. The FREE event will take place Saturday, October 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Pecan Grove at Brackenridge Park, near the zoo entrance and under the direction of former Festival manager, Ashley Bird.

Festival founder and director Monika Maeckle of the Texas Butterfly Ranch stepped away earlier this year to focus on two books she’s been working on. She started the Festival in 2016 and has run it every year since–until now. For the 8th annual edition, Bird assumes the role of organizer, fundraiser, logistics executor and director.

“It’s a huge amount of work and I’m relieved and incredibly lucky that Ashley has stepped up to tackle all the chores associated with pulling the Festival off,” said Maeckle. She added that she couldn’t think of anyone more capable than Bird–or Birdie, as she’s known via her educational company Blooming with Birdie.

This year’s Festival will be different from years past. The press release announcing the event promises  “a captivating journey into the realms of curiosity, compassion, and environmental consciousness.” The event will offer families and people of all ages an “immersive educational play land where attendees can discover, learn, and grow” as well as a “an educational play land like no other.”

Montessori educator Ashley Bird, known as “Birdie” moved from Festival manager to director this year. –Photo by Bria Woods

A certified Montessori educator and educational experience designer, Bird embraces hands-on learning and said via email that her priority is to create interactive and immersive experiences that enable direct and meaningful connections with nature.

“The People as Pollinators Experiment was inspired by my favorite Montessori quote: ‘We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity,'” she explained. The goal: to encourage participants to assume the role of a pollinator and gain insight into how their choices impact our ecosystem.

She added that taking on the director role has been extremely rewarding.

“It’s been a privilege to witness the deep gratitude and respect that the Festival has garnered as a platform for educating, informing, and inspiring individuals about the crucial role of pollinators and the broader ecosystem,” she said.

The four-hour celebration, produced by Blooming with Birdie in partnership with Brackenridge Park Conservancy, will include participation from more than 30 educational partners providing interactive experiences. Festival-goers can participate in more than two dozen immersive experiences, many of which are familiar from previous Festivals staged at the Pearl, Confluence Park and Brackenridge:

  • The People as Pollinators Experiment. Participants can transform into their favorite pollinator through face-painting and costumes.
  • Monarch Tagging.  This popular activity has always been a hit, allowing attendees to participate in  Monarch Watch’s citizen science program by tagging and releasing a monarch butterfly, recording the data and contributing to research.
  • The Monarch Migration Obstacle Course. Embark on a journey mirroring the monarch’s migration. Fly, morph to the next stage, and overcome obstacles as you make your way to Canada and back to Mexico.
  • Pollinator Procession. Dance, flutter, and buzz alongside Bexar Brass as you embrace your inner pollinator and celebrate nature’s rhythms.
  • Dia de los Muertos Altar. Honor the spiritual significance of the monarch and celebrate Dia de los Muertos, marking the monarchs’ return to Mexico in early November.
  • Plants, Trees, & more. Get your hands dirty as you adopt a tree, plant, and learn how to nurture and care for our ecosystem.

NOTE: Parking will be available in the free lot near the train depot and the zoo parking garage. For more information, visit the Festival page at Blooming with Birdie.

TOP PHOTO: Children of all ages “migrate” across the lawn at the 2022 Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Brackenridge Park. –Photo by Bria Woods

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