Adding a Mexican flavor is just one of the new twists to this year's Monarch Butterfly Festival at the Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary.
On Saturday, Aug. 25, visitors will have the opportunity to observe monarchs in every stage of their life cycle from tiny eggs through caterpillar, chrysalis and into butterflies.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Audubon's auditorium will be transformed into a garden of wildflowers with butterflies flying about. Tiny butterfly eggs will be on display along with monarch caterpillars of all sizes. One corner will have volunteers bringing butterflies for people to hold. Another will have people tagging the butterflies with stickers.
"After we release the butterflies, they will fly to Mexico, where our tags will help scientists track their migration," said Jeff Tome, Monarch enthusiast and Audubon senior naturalist. "Offering Mexican food to festival guests will remind them of where these beautiful creatures are heading."
The butterfly release will close the festival at 4 p.m.
Another new feature at the festival will be photo opportunities with human-sized cutouts of a monarch butterfly and a caterpillar. An adult can stand behind the butterfly and their head will be the monarch's head. Children can stick their heads through the caterpillar's to have their pictures taken as a caterpillar.
There will also be butterfly crafts for children, butterfly-related items - including monarch t-shirts - featured in the Nature Store, tours of Audubon's butterfly garden and a plant sale aimed at getting more milkweed, the only food of monarch caterpillars, into the community.
Inside, volunteers will help children and adults hold caterpillars and butterflies. Outside, they will show how to use insect nets to catch, identify and release butterflies on Audubon's grounds.
Barbara Case, Monarch butterfly expert, plays a key role in the festival by collecting and raising scores of monarch eggs and caterpillars all summer. She and others will answer questions about raising and tagging monarchs, growing milkweed, planting a butterfly garden, and establishing a monarch way station to help monarch butterflies.
Admission is $5 for Audubon members, $7 for non-members, and free for children ages 2 and under.
The Audubon Center and Sanctuary is at 1600 Riverside Road, off Route 62 between Jamestown and Warren. The center's building, with a nature store and exhibits of live fish, reptiles, amphibians and more, is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Its five miles of trails, Bald Eagle viewing, arboretum and gardens are open dawn to dusk every day.
The Monarch Butterfly Festival is made possible by the dedication of volunteers, several of whom are registered with RSVP, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Major Monarch Butterfly Festival sponsors are Wegmans and Whirley DrinkWorks as well as Frewsburger Pizza Shop, H&R Block of Warren, Heritage Senior Living Communities, Kings' Heating & Sheet Metal Inc., Lena's Pizza, Phoenix Metal and United Refining Company.
For more information about Audubon and its programs, call 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org.
For detailed instructions on raising monarchs and to follow the monarch butterfly migration, visit monarchwatch.org. Information about creating butterfly gardens are available at butterflywebsite.com.