Livia Mitre, 9, of Beverly, was happy to be a part of Lake Katherine's Monarch Celebration.

Livia Mitre, 9, of Beverly, was happy to be a part of Lake Katherine's Monarch Celebration.

Butterflies are king at Lake Katherine Monarch Celebration

By Kelly White

Kicking off the fall season with a festival dedicated to the beautiful Monarch butterfly was Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Garden.

The nature center, located at 7402 Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights, held its 29th annual Monarch Celebration, on Saturday, September 24, and Sunday, September 25.

Originally called a Monarch Butterfly Festival, it was renamed last year as a Monarch Celebration, taking place over two days instead of one. Gareth Blakesley Director and Chief Naturalist at Lake Katherine explained why.

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Emerson Schweikert, 5, of Palos Heights, was excited to hold as many butterflies as she could during Lake Katherine’s Monarch Celebration last Saturday afternoon.

“We had about 1,500 people over two days as opposed to 4,000 in one day, which is part of the reason we have decided to call the event a Monarch Celebration as opposed to the Monarch Festival,” he said.

The Monarch is a large, uniquely colored butterfly that is easy to recognize by its orange, black, and white markings.

At the start of every fall season, all Monarchs embark on a lengthy cross-country migration that begins in the United States and Canada. During this trip, generations of these butterflies travel thousands of miles until they reach Mexico, where they the stay over the winter season until it’s time to begin their migration back north in March.

Only Monarchs born in late summer or early fall typically make the migration, and they complete just one round trip.

During the weekend-long event at Lake Katherine, families were able to experience the magic of the butterfly during the celebration as they walked through a large butterfly tent filled with Monarchs in a pre-registered 15-minute time slot.

“It was more of an intimate experience this year and because of preregistration guaranteed entry to the butterfly tent with no long lines,” Blakesley said.

The cost to be admitted was $10 with the option to release a butterfly in the tent for an additional $5. Staff only permitted a maximum of 20 people inside the tent. There were plenty of photo opportunities and an opportunity to see the butterfly up-close.

As a registered nonprofit, any funds raised from the event will go directly to continue the nature center’s education, restoration work and maintaining the grounds.

Guests were also able to enjoy a visit with animal guests, a crafting area, educational activities, a hayride around the grounds, a couple of food and craft vendors offering seasonally appropriate items and more.

Blakesley said its important to educate important to educate the general public about the Monarch because Monarchs are in decline and the migrations at risk of not continuing on in the future. There are several reasons for this, he said.

“The decline of milkweed plants which is the host plant of the Monarch butterfly; the lack of pollinator plants which the butterfly needs to nectar to feed on, and the stress on the overwintering site in the Oyumel forest in Mexico,” Blakesley said.

Naturalists, like Blakesley have not given up hope, however.

“People can help Monarchs by planting milkweed and two other preferred plants that the butterfly can nectar on, the blazing star and goldenrod,” he said.

 

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Lake Katherine Nature Center & Botanical Garden Naturalist, Sophie Shukin, holds a butterfly last Saturday afternoon at the nature center’s Monarch Celebration.

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