Thursday, April 25, 2019
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20190320 Monarch IMG 4693Carmen and Tim Connaughty had been driving past Quinta Mazatlan, located at 600 Sunset Dr. in McAllen, but never knew what it was.

“We would drive to the market or to the mall and see it. I mean, we knew it was there – you can’t miss it,” Tim said. “We just never knew what it was.”

They know now.

“We actually saw in the Winter Texan Times that this festival for Monarch butterflies was going to take place here and realized it was the same place,” Tim said. “It seemed fascinating to have a festival for a butterfly. But this is the place for it. This is amazing.”

The couple, who live in Seven Oaks in Mission, said they were impressed by every facet of the grounds for the third annual Monarch Festival, especially the nature walks, which cut through heavy and varied brush, plants, trees and ponds. Many families walked through the trails, stopping to check out the different ecological findings, peering deeply to see what were in the ponds and searching for bird and wildlife statues that are placed along the way as if in their natural habitat.

“There’s no way you could walk through there if there wasn’t a trail,” Tim said. “It’s impressive to learn about all the different animals that used to be here – it’s beautiful and amazing.”

20190320 Monarch IMG 4758Tim and Carmen enjoyed the somewhat cool day – temperatures started out in the low 50s but settled in around 58, with little-to-no wind – at Quinta Mazatlan, one of nine sites for the World Birding Center and affectionately known as a mansion with a mission due to the 10,000 square foot adobe structure that serves as the park’s visitors center.

Constructed in 1935, the Spanish Revival Style mansion was a private and luxurious residence, complete with a Roman tub. It had the distinction then and now of being one of the largest adobe structures in Texas.

Some 60 years later, the house was put up for sale at an auction. Despite Quinta Mazatlan’s appeal, developers with eyes on other projects wanted to demolish the adobe home. However the City of McAllen bought the property in 1998 to preserve the historic mansion, and in 2006 Quinta Mazatlan opened as a wing of the World Birding Center – a “mansion with a mission."

Its grounds were transformed into a Monarch haven. Teen and pre-teen boys and girls walked through the festival grounds wearing large silk-like Monarch wings, kids had butterflies painted with a rainbow of colors on their faces. Other children performed ballets and other dances on the Monarch main stage.

Pierre Tessier of Quebec City was volunteering to show children how to plant seeds and the importance of native plants. A Quebec City native, Tessier became a Winter Texan after meeting his future wife, Cathy, in Donna in November 2016. “I went back to Quebec City, came back and got married,” he said. The two live at Alamo Country Club.

“I became a certified Texas Master Naturalist,” he said as a group of children were planting seeds in a small pot. “This is what we do, work in the nature parks. Here we are trying to teach children mainly how to plant seeds and let them know that native plants and flower attract butterflies and that’s very important.”

Monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies, many people say, their bright colors being attractive and eye-catching. They are considered the “king” of the butterflies, hence the name “monarch.” The Rio Grande Valley is known as one of the top birding and butterfly regions in the nation and the world.

Monarch butterflies are not able to survive the cold winters of most of the United States –especially where most Winter Texans reside, so they migrate south and west each autumn to escape the cold weather. The monarch migration usually starts in about October of each year, but can start earlier if the weather turns cold sooner.

The butterflies will spend their hibernation months in Mexico and parts of Southern California and a mass migration of them will come through the Rio Grande Valley. The butterfly actually migrates for two reasons. They cannot withstand the cold. Also, the food plants do not grow in their winter overwintering sites, so the spring generation must fly back north to places where the plants are plentiful.

“Butterflies feed off the native plants, they survive because of them,” Tim Connaughty said. “It’s important that we keep building butterfly gardens and do things to attract these butterflies.”

Local vendors included Hinovations Art Gallery, D’Grai Creations, God’s Garden and others. Live food prep presentations by Chef Marcel of the McAllen Culinary Academy showcased specialties for all ages. Local food trucks will also have cuisine for purchase.

Additional activities at the festival included guided garden tours, speakers, painting opportunities and educational booths, including how to create a butterfly garden, which drew many visitors.

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