A lifting of wings

by liza mitchell
“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.” – Richard Bach
Come celebrate the beauty of spring at the 11th annual Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival at Tree Hill Nature Center. The family event is the center’s largest fundraiser of the year, culminating in the release of hundreds of live butterflies.
The center’s director, Mark Mummaw said that the butterfly festival has become one of Tree Hill’s signature events. “The staff puts in a lot of time and effort into the preparation for the big day.”
“A spring butterfly release has become synonymous with Tree Hill Nature Center,” said Mark. “Every year, my favorite part of the festival is to watch hundreds of people by the Joseph A. Strasser Amphitheater and watch with astonishment as butterflies spiral into the sky.”
A dreamer from the Dreams Come True Foundation will be selected to participate in the release of the butterflies. The exact number and species of butterflies can’t be determined ahead of time, but all will be native to their new environment. “We try and get Monarchs because they are the biggest and prettiest,” he said. “It’s always such a fun event.”
The Butterfly Festival will be held from 10 am to 4 pm on April 28. The butterfly release is scheduled for 3:30 pm, weather permitting. The event will also feature local vendors with handmade and eco-friendly arts and crafts, photography, art, hands-on animal interactions with some of the resident wildlife, and live entertainment from folk singer Mrs. Kate of Callahan.
Kate Carpenter has a unique talent for writing and performing songs for children. Mrs. Kate is a familiar face at many area elementary schools and will be delighting festivalgoers this year at other events such as the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival and the Florida Folk Festival. She will also be a featured artist at the Riverside Arts Market. Songs like ‘Crack A Book’ and ‘I Like Bein’ Clean’ deliver valuable early-life lessons, and the catchy ‘Hug-a-Bug-a-Boo’ teaches children not to bully. Her tunes, though simple, are clever and aimed at positive goals.
Children can enjoy face painting, and Pink Flamingo Arts will host a free kids craft area where participants can make their own plant marker. “Seeds and Bees” will also be on display in the community garden where there is a newly established bee hive.
A variety of refreshments will be available to help raise money for the center. The proceeds will benefit educational programs that teach children the importance of preservation and conservation. The funds also ensure the continued protection and availability of natural spaces.
“Tree Hill was created to allow people to experience nature in a brand new way,” Mark said. “Our festival is the perfect outlet for children and adults alike to do just that.”
Tree Hill Nature Center is comprised of 50 acres of unspoiled wetlands and hardwood forest tucked away from the hustle of urban living. Nature trails wind through the trees and a freshwater stream follows its path. The property features wildflower, butterfly and hummingbird gardens that allow each species to exist free and unencumbered. A learning laboratory, history museum and an amphitheatre are frequently used to host community outreach programs that promote ecological awareness. Originally, Tree Hill was 40 acres, but the center was able to secure a grant in 1998 that allowed for expansion. The additional 10 acres was saved from the encroaching commercial development flanking the pristine natural grounds.
By hosting such events as the Butterfly Festival, educators at Tree Hill will be able to promote the value of environmental awareness in a fun and family-friendly atmosphere.
Admission to the Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors, students and military; and $3 for children. Tree Hill Nature Center is located at 7152 Lone Star Road. Call 724-4646 or visit www.treehill.org for more information.