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Local area children made butterfly crafts at the Oak Lawn Park District hosted its 5th annual Monarch Festival at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th Street, Oak Lawn, on Saturday afternoon.

Local area children made butterfly crafts when the Oak Lawn Park District hosted its fifth annual Monarch Festival at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th Street, Oak Lawn, on Saturday afternoon. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Park District chips in to help save the monarchs

By Kelly White

The monarch butterfly is easily recognizable with its delicate wings showcasing an intricate black, orange and white pattern. The monarch is filled with beauty, but it is also in need of preservation, according to Dolly Foster, Horticulturist for the Oak Lawn Park District.

“I think that because the monarch is the most well know insect in the country, it is easy to care for it,” Foster said. Everyone recognizes the monarch even if you don’t know its name. Illinois is one of the most important states in the Midwest for the migration. “

At the start of every fall season, all monarch butterflies embark on an incredible cross-country migration that begins in the United States and Canada. Generations of these butterflies travel thousands of miles until they reach Mexico, where they the stay until it’s time to begin their migration back home in March, Foster explained.

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Guests at the Oak Lawn Park District butterfly festival were able to get up close and personal with monarch butterflies.

In order to help preserve the butterfly, the Oak Lawn Park District hosted its fifth annual Monarch Festival at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St., Oak Lawn, last Saturday afternoon.

“The Oak Lawn Monarch Fest’s mission is to educate the public on how they can help the monarch butterfly in their own back yard,” Foster said. “We blend education with fun activities to make the learning more exciting.”

Foster has personally been raising monarchs in her home for more than 12 years. She raises monarch butterflies from eggs and caterpillars that she finds on planted milkweed at various Oak Lawn Park District facilities and parks. She then releases these butterflies as she raises them. Educating the public, through programs like the Oak Lawn Park District’s Monarch Festival are something she looks forward to.

The Oak Lawn Park District’s Monarch Festival gathered together more than 600 local area residents. Attendees were able to gain knowledge about the monarch by speaking with representatives from environmental education organizations who were there to help educate the community on protecting both the monarch and the environment.

The festival also featured recreational activities for adults and children, including a puppet theatre and crafts to educate younger audiences about the monarch’s migration and the life cycle of a butterfly, and live butterflies and caterpillars right on-site to observe first-hand.

“Monarchs are an important keystone species that can show the health of a wild prairie or backyard garden for pollinators,” Foster said.

Highlighting Saturday’s festival were 100 tagged butterflies that were released by attendees of all ages. The release of the butterflies was spread out in specific assigned time increments throughout the day.

Prior to release, the butterflies were tagged in order to help with the University of Kansas program Monarch Watch.

For over 24 years, Monarch Watch has studied the monarch habits, migration and health. They ask citizen scientists to tag the monarch by placing a tiny sticker on their wing. This tag has a unique six-digit code and the email address for the program. It is the hope that the butterflies will be retrieved in Mexico at the overwintering grounds. With the information supplied by the citizen scientists, Monarch Watch can see where the monarch was born, tagged and how long it took to get to Mexico.

Children in attendance were able to record a tag number in their very own passport booklet and check to see if the butterfly they helped release is recorded in Mexico after the migration.

“If we do not continue the conservation efforts that have already begun then we will lose the migration,” Foster said. “The monarch butterfly may not go extinct the amazing phenomenon of the migration will be lost forever.”

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Dolly Foster, Horticulturist for the Oak Lawn Park District, spoke to attendees at the Oak Lawn Park District’s fifth annual Monarch Festival at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St. last Saturday afternoon.

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