By Conrad Dudderar
The special guests of the festival fluttered, floated and flew around.
Their orange and black colors blended with the green grass and pollinator gardens at the Mollie Spencer Farm, a nature preserve near the northeast corner of Vandament and Garth Brooks Boulevard.
More than 300 people arrived for the second annual Monarch Festival Saturday, Sept. 30, said the Mollie Spencer Farm projects manager Emma Newberry-Davis. The number of butterflies was light, however.
The monarchs have arrived, although their numbers were few because it was still a bit too early for monarchs in Yukon on the last day of September.
The clusters of colorful butterflies are now migrating from the north to Mexico for the winter but most are still further north of Canadian County borders.
Temperatures have been warm across the Great Plains, and once cooler days start happening up north, more will fly south.
On the concrete trail at the Yukon farm, Emma Holman, 16, a Yukon High School sophomore, had her face painted in pastel baby blue, white and black butterfly wings over each eye. She had a butterfly clip on the back of her hair.
Children were able to draw pictures of butterflies and visit the pollinator gardens too.
“It was pretty fun. You get to draw, you get to color, they do face-painting and they give you this free clip,” Holman said, turning around to show the clip on the back of her hair. “It’s just an awesome experience. You get to see the butterflies. The trails are nice. It’s a nice day outside.”
Also on the trail was Suzanne Rogers, who has lived in northwest Oklahoma City for 46 years but had never been to the Mollie Spencer Farm until Saturday.
“I didn’t know the farm was here. I’m so glad the family (Kirkpatrick family) donated this, keeping it the way it was and having a place for people to come to enjoy the history of Oklahoma,” Rogers said.
The Kirkpatrick family farm was established on the plains in 1894.
MONARCHS PLIGHT AND PATH
Monarch butterfly numbers are dwindling across North America as habitats disappear. Janet Horner, a master gardener with the Canadian County Master Gardeners, works in El Reno for the Oklahoma State University Extension office.
Horner helped people tag monarchs to release them at the festival.
Maple Thurman, 13, of Edmond, learned how to hold a male monarch carefully and release him.
“I thought it was really cool,” Maple said. “Their wings are like really delicate, but they are so pretty.”
She tagged the monarch to help scientists possibly find it in Mexico and study their migrations.
Maple’s mother Jennifer Thurman was impressed with the festival.
“It’s beautiful, there were plenty of monarchs out here to see,” Jennifer Thurman said.
Also in the crowd was Amy Field who was at the festival with Tamryn, 8, and Taylon, 9 and they got to paint their faces, color and release a butterfly.
“This is our second annual monarch festival. We’ve had about 300 people come out today which is really exciting,” Newberry-Davis said.
She said the attendance doubled last year’s numbers of people.
The Canadian County Master Gardeners partnered to put on the festival.
Monarchs will migrate through October as temperatures cool and winter nears.
“They are in the process of coming down. It is supposed to cool off a little more and they are going to be out in the next few weeks,” Newberry-Davis said.
She explained the purpose of the festival.
“It’s to raise awareness about monarchs and how we can support their populations, how we can plant for them. We can plant pollinator gardens. We can plant milkweed in our yards and just learn more about them and just celebrate this little, beautiful butterfly,” Newberry-Davis said.
Horner said the Canadian County Master Gardeners are participating in Monarch Watch that was started in 1992 at the University of Kansas. The tags that are placed on butterflies have a code that is recorded.
Not all the monarchs actually make it to Mexico, but one that does will provide important data about the butterfly migrations.
There is more to learn about nature and history at the farm, too.
The Mollie Spencer Farm is open to the public during special events only.
The next event is the Chisholm Trail Festival on Saturday, Oct. 14 that celebrates the historic cattle trail that crossed through this area in the 1800s.
A nature walk is Oct. 21 will focus on native trees.