The pink pipe cleaner antennae worn by two young girls bobbled and swayed in anticipation at Confluence Park on Saturday afternoon. Once volunteers equipped their hand-painted, cardboard wings with straps, the girls took part in a symbolic metamorphosis in recognition of the day’s guests of honor: butterflies.

The sixth annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival flew to the Southside park this year, several miles from its former location at the Pearl Brewery.

“I’m glad it’s here,” said Janie De La Garza. “It brings people to our side of town.”

Hundreds of people, perhaps more than 1,000, visited the festival throughout the day, organizers estimated.

De La Garza was watching her daughter Analysia, the tallest in the group, wait for her wings. She chose moth wings with muted colors painted into patterns resembling eyes.

  • A monarch butterfly rests on a child’s hand during the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Confluence Park on Saturday.
  • Ariana Davila, 8, paints a set of butterfly wings with the help of Cecilia Duda, a student at the Southwest School of Art, during the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Confluence Park on Saturday.
  • Children gather to watch a butterfly release during the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Confluence Park on Saturday.
  • Neela Sara stands for a photo with a bee cutout during the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival at Confluence Park on Saturday.

Analysia, 22, volunteers with Yanawana Herbolarios, a nonprofit aimed at preserving and honoring cultural knowledge of the land and botanical health care. She attended the festival to learn more about native plants, composting, and tending the land from the dozens of pop-up exhibits. The wings, courtesy of the Southwest School of Art, were a bonus.

“We need to teach people about nature,” she said.

The educational festival was packed with fun activities for all ages and emphasized the importance of pollinators to the ecosystem, making one out of every three bites of our food possible.

Each fall, Monarch butterflies migrate through Texas from Canada on their way to the Mexican mountains, usually in time for Day of the Dead in early November. Hundreds of butterflies were tagged at the festival this and last year with the name of someone who died.

The conditions on Saturday were ideal for both humans and the butterflies.

Confluence Park has a larval garden, which features host plants for butterflies to lay eggs, and its proximity to the river is important this time of year, said Monika Maeckle, festival organizer and founder of Texas Butterfly Ranch.

After a hot summer, Maeckle said, “typically, the butterflies gravitate to rivers. That’s where the flowers are.”

While some strong winds temporarily disheveled some displays, it will help the butterflies on their quest.

“We’ve got wind out of the north, which means the butterflies that we’re releasing are going to catch that wind wave and have a better chance [of reaching Mexico],” she said.

Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, events took place virtually.

“We didn’t know where we were going to be this year when we started out and it couldn’t have landed in a better place,” Maeckle said of Confluence Park, which blends recreation with environmental education at the confluence of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River.

The park is operated by the San Antonio River Foundation, the festival’s title sponsor this year.

“This festival has evolved to the next stage,” Maeckle said. “It’s a true community event and a community space.”

Disclosure: Monika Maeckle is the co-founder of the San Antonio Report.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org