Wednesday, March 20, 2019
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Pamela Drew handed 6-year-old Sienna Randall at spray bottle and explained to her what to do with the paper butterfly she had just designed.

“Go ahead and spray it sweetie,” she said at the Butterfly Craft Station. “Then we can get another color.”

Drew was one of dozens of volunteers helping out at the annual McAllen Monarch Festival, held Saturday, March 17 at Quinta Mazatlan. The festival celebrates the arrival of the Monarch Butterflies. There were crafts, nature presentations, butterfly garden information, music, art, food and more.

Pamela and her husband John are Winnipeg, Canada residents but spent their first long-term winter in the Rio Grande Valley this year, residing at Victoria Palms RV Resort in Donna. They said they have a similar festival back home so volunteering for the McAllen event was a perfect connection for them.

Sienna’s dad, Matt Randall, said he was excited to see an event that teaches nature and the outdoors.

“I was really excited to see this event was happening and all the great things they were having here – to teach about nature and the outdoors,” said Randall, who lives in the Valley but is from London, UK, “This is something the area needs, especially in a day of everything being technology and everyone on their phones or other electronics. There needs to be more interaction with the outdoors so this is great.”

Pamela was working in a section of the festival that held plenty of hands-on activity stations for the kids like how to plant a seed, monarch easel painting, garden design, terrarium design, habitat for critters and many more.

John Drew was also volunteering at the Scouts table. He had plenty of information on what badges the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts could earn while at the event. Some of the badge requirements included Bugs, Outdoor Art Maker, Into the Wild Adventure, Wolf, Bear and Insect badges.

“The festival back home is right across the street from our home in Canada,” John said. “So this was something we were familiar with and are glad to be a part of.”

Quinta Mazatlan is an urban sanctuary with a mission to enrich people's lives by sharing knowledge about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas. Quinta Mazatlan and its World Birding Center partners promote birding and conservation of Valley habitat, especially as it benefits numerous avian residents and neo-tropical migrants.

The parking lots were filled to capacity as people flocked to the annual show, many wearing orange, signifying the bright color displayed by the Monarch Butterfly. While the festival opened at 10 a.m. there were many people walking around on the grounds checking out the trails throughout Quinta Mazatlan.

Rayma and Wayne Huggins, and Cathy Joab, were casually looking around – but in search of where the speakers would be making their presentation. The Huggins are from Manchester, Iowa and live in Mission Bell Tradewinds RV Park, while Joab is from Osage City, Kan. and resides during the winter at Oleander Acres.

Like so many winter residents, they recently planted butterfly gardens in their park. Both Huggins and Joab had recently hatched out a monarch, one on Wednesday and the other just hours prior to attending the show. They planned to release them earlier this week at Oleander Acres.

“I always kept a well-maintained garden and then when I wanted to build a butterfly garden I read that the butterflies like an unkempt area, so I had to dig it up and let the weeds grow,” Joab said. “I love hummingbirds too, so have been planting for them as well.”

Monarchs are highly attracted to the milkweed plant. During their winter migration south from as far north at the Great Lakes in Canada, through the Rio Grande Valley and into the Central Mexico forests, they will fly at speeds ranging between 12 and 25 miles per hour. However, similar to the migrating birds, the monarch butterflies use the clear advantage of updrafts of warm air, called “thermals" and glide as they migrate, to preserve the energy required for flapping their wings all the through the long 2,500-mile voyage from. They rest there through winter and then complete their migration northwards in search of milkweed plants.

When those butterflies go through Topeka, Kan., Mike and Val Pater will be ready for them. The Paters, who live in the winter at Palmera Heights in LaFeria, planted a butterfly garden two years ago, filled with milkweed plants. How much do those butterflies love the milkweed? The caterpillar is a voracious eater and it is capable of consuming an entire milkweed leaf in less than five minutes.

“One plant alone had about 30 butterflies around it,” Mike Pater said. “Last year it had about 20 of the caterpillars. We really enjoyed planting it and now watching it grow.”

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