The seventh annual Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival returns this Saturday, this time at Brackenridge Park, offering opportunities to interact with monarch butterflies as they pass through San Antonio on their journey to Mexico.

Hosted by the Texas Butterfly Ranch and the Brackenridge Park Conservancy, the festival began in 2016 after the City of San Antonio took the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge.

The festival brings together more than 20 nonprofit organizations and educational partners to educate the community about the importance of the monarch and other pollinators. 

For the first four years, the festival took place at the Pearl, then went virtual in 2020 because of COVID-19. Last year, the festival took place at Confluence Park. This year, it will be held in the Pecan Grove at Brackenridge Park. 

“The most valuable aspect is just communicating, and giving people the opportunity to experience the magic of interacting with a monarch butterfly in person,” said Monika Maeckle, festival organizer and founder of Texas Butterfly Ranch.

The event is free to the public and will include a variety of educational activities to learn about monarchs migration to Mexico. 

In celebration of the event, local landscape architecture firm MP Studio is transforming the San Antonio Zoo train into a monarch butterfly caterpillar for the month of October.

Activities will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday, after Mayor Ron Nirenberg publicly inaugurates the caterpillar train and tags a butterfly, Maeckle said.

Attendees will be able to tag monarch butterflies with trained docents as part of the Monarch Watch citizen science initiative and participate in the Forever Journey, a program that tags butterflies in honor of deceased loved ones.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to go on a birding tour of the park and butterfly bike rides with the Austin Bike Zoo. There will also be adoption events — free trees from the San Antonio Parks Department and pollinator-friendly native plants provided by the San Antonio Water System. 

There will also be a monarch butterfly obstacle course, organized by Blooming with Birdie, that offers kids a hands-on experience about butterfly development and migration.

“I think people will find something of interest, even non-family people walking around, seeing the butterflies,” said Maeckle.

This year, the festival will also include a Tree of Life altar, created by Terry Ybañez, which will provide a quiet, peaceful space for solitude. Once the event ends, the altar will be moved to Mission Library until the end of October. From there will go to Mission Marquee Plaza, for the Day of the Dead festival. 

The Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival is one of several events hosted by the Texas Butterfly Ranch that take place in October as migrating monarch butterflies move into Mexico. 

On Oct. 15, the Witte Museum will host a documentary series on “Flight of the Butterflies” in 3D at Memorial Auditorium.

“It’s incredibly gratifying to me to spread this wisdom that I’ve acquired over more than 10 years, and seeing how it touches people, and changes their attitude and outlook toward nature,” said Maeckle. “I think we all need more of that. … The festival plants the seeds of understanding, and that’s very satisfying to me.”

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

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. A 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, her work has been recognized by the Texas Managing Editors. She previously worked...