A San Antonio Zoo School child wore her butterfly shirt especially for today. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
A San Antonio Zoo School child wore her butterfly shirt in anticipation for today's trip to the butterfly habitat. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

As the United States’ first official “Monarch Champion City” – a unique designation by the National Wildlife Federation for cities that adopt all of the federation’s 24 recommendations for Monarch conservation – San Antonio will host a fun and educational celebration in honor of the winged insects that travel through the city on their multi-generation migration from Mexico to Canada and back again.

The Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival, which will take place from Oct. 20-22 at the Pearl and the Instituto Cultural de México, will highlight the majesty of Monarch butterflies and other pollinators while also shedding light on the environmental implications of climate change on the insects’ roosting sites.

The festival’s programming also will explain the creatures’ importance in our food and beverage chain, promote private sector involvement in Monarch conservation, and underscore Texas’ relationship with Mexico.

Monarch butterfly on Goldenrod at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Photo copyright National Butterfly Center
Monarch butterfly on Goldenrod at the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. Photo courtesy of National Butterfly Center.

Monika Maeckle, organizer of the event and founder of Texas Butterfly Ranch told the Rivard Report that the festival is modeled after the Butterfly Flutterby Festival, which has taken place in Grapevine, Texas for the last 18 years.

“Jenny Singleton (who helps organize Butterfly Flutterby), is the one who got me into this thing when she invited me to her ranch to tag Monarchs,” Maeckle said. Singleton later introduced Maeckle to the Butterfly Flutterby team, who shared worksheets and plans with her.

“We started planning in January, but it’s really taken off and incredible partners such as the Pearl, San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, H-E-B, and the San Antonio River Authority have come on board.”

According to Pearl Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Fauerso, when Maeckle shared the idea of a butterfly parade and release at the Pearl, it only made sense to become involved. The family-friendly event speaks to the Pearl’s mission of celebrating the multiculturalism of San Antonio.

With the additional help of Fauerso and Trinity University biology professor Kelly Lyons, Maeckle added a symposium to the festivities. The unique event will feature both scientists and citizen scientists from Mexico, the U.S., and Canada – all three countries involved in the Monarch migration.

Monarch migration map
Monarch butterflies migrate through the Texas Funnel enroute to and from their roosting grounds in Mexico in the spring and fall. Graphic by Nicolas Rivard

“What’s amazing about this is how the idea of the festival has pollinated all these other things,” Maeckle added. “The magnetism of Monarch butterflies is good for other pollinators. There are so many ways to connect people and we can use this event to leverage interest in education and awareness in other species.”

Below you can find a schedule of events for the October festival:

THURSDAY, OCT. 20 | 6-8 p.m.

Buen Viaje, Mariposa Monarca!” at Instituto Cultural de México, 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way (Free)

The three-day event will kick off with Buen Viaje, Mariposa Monarca!, a free photography exhibition at the Instituto Cultural de México. The exhibit will showcase photos of the Monarchs’ roosting sites in Michoacán, Mexico taken by Mexican nature photographer Ignacio Arcas. In addition, Michoacán-based Mexican forester Cuauhtémoc Saenz Romero will host a talk about Monarch migration.

The Instituto Cultural de México is located in Hemisfair Park. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
The Instituto Cultural de México is located in Hemisfair Park. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

Maeckle met Instituto Cultural de México Director Mónica del Arenal a few months ago when the Mexican native first arrived in town to begin her new role at the Instituto. When Maeckle shared the idea for the butterfly festival, Del Arenal jumped at the opportunity to get involved and began planning special programming at the institute for the festival.

“Ignacio Arcas’ photos will be exhibited on the exterior walls of the Instituto to familiarize passersby,” Del Arenal told the Rivard Report in Spanish. “The other component will involve more pictures exhibited in one of our galleries. The goal is for people to see the photography outside and then come inside to look at more images and read about butterfly reproduction and migration.”

An installation by artist David J. Romero, which replicates the Monarch butterfly roosting sites, will be exhibited in the main lobby of the Instituto, Del Arenal added.

FRIDAY, OCT. 21  | 6-8 p.m.

Climate Change and the Monarch Butterfly Migration Symposium at the Pearl Studio, 200 E. Grayson St. #115 ($10)

The Climate Change and Monarch Butterfly Migration Symposium will be moderated by Rackspace Corporate Communications Vice President Dan Goodgame. Distinguished panelists include forester Saenz Romero, who also will host a talk at the Instituto on Oct. 20; Catalina Trail, the Mexican woman who first led U.S. scientists to the Monarch roosting grounds in Michoacán in the 1970s and was featured on National Geographic’s August 1976 cover; Katharine Hayhoe, Canadian atmospheric scientist, author, and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University; and Cathy Downs, a conservation specialist for Monarch Watch based in Comfort, Texas.

Maeckle said the symposium – which has representation from all three countries affected by the Monarch migration – is a gateway to conservation as it creates an accessible way to understand complex problems such as climate change, the role of pesticides, and more.

“This is a historic moment in the Monarch World,” she said. “Thousands of people follow Monarchs on social media (and) the symposium speaks to the whole relationship between communities. This whole issue is so interconnected.”

Citizen science plays a huge role in unraveling the mystery of the Monarch migration, Maeckle added, and the symposium is a way to talk about issues affecting all the countries involved.

There will be limited seating at this event, and tickets cost $10 per person. To purchase tickets, click here.

Maeckle said the event will likely be live streamed on a site yet to be determined. Check her website here for updates.

SATURDAY, OCT. 22  | 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Festival at the Pearl, 303 Pearl Pkwy. (Free)

Starting at 9:30 a.m., attendees can gather for a parade, which will be lead by butterfly-themed bike group, “Pedaling Pollinators,” from San Antonio Earn a Bike Co-op. Costumes are encouraged.

Earn A Bike Co-op Pedaling Pollinators will lead the People for Pollinator Parade. Photo courtesy of Christian Sandoval.
Earn A Bike Co-op Pedaling Pollinators will lead the Pollinator Parade. Photo courtesy of Christian Sandoval.

Earn a Bike Co-op Founder Cristian Sandoval said he worked with the organization’s summer camp kids to build special butterfly bikes for the occasion.

“The kids came up with the solution – we welded two BMX bikes together and in the center we put the body, which is made out of wire, and covered it with canvas. From the back of the body, two long steel polls hold the wings.”

Starting at 11:30 a.m. children and adults alike can participate in a butterfly release and also will be able to learn how to tag Monarch butterflies.

The festivities will coincide with the Pearl’s weekly farmers market, which will include native plant sales, a live bee hive demonstration, butterfly and caterpillar story time at Twig Bookstore, live caterpillars and other critters, and a game of Monarch Jeopardy.

“We are a twice weekly farmers market and this opportunity is perfect to show the role pollinators play in our indigenous natural landscape,” Fauerso said. “We (need to think) in terms of our ability to participate proactively as consumers, eaters, and gardeners in an environment that connects our world with the world of Monarchs. We can do something about it.”


Disclosure: Monika Maeckle is a co-founder of the Rivard Report and married to Rivard Report Director Robert Rivard. Dan Goodgame is a Rivard Report board member. The Rivard Report is a media sponsor of the Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Festival.

Assistant Editor Camille Garcia contributed to this report.

Top image: A San Antonio Zoo School child wore her butterfly shirt in anticipation for the day’s trip to the butterfly habitat.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Rocío Guenther

Rocío Guenther worked as a bilingual reporter and editorial assistant for the Rivard Report from June 2016 to October 2017. She is originally from Guadalajara, Mexico and holds a bachelor's in English...