Debbie Croft: Mariposa set to transform for annual Butterfly Festival

04/25/2014 8:00 PM

04/25/2014 8:31 PM

Soon everything will be coming up butterflies in Mariposa. The Butterfly Festival is always the first weekend in May.

Butterfly releases and activities are scheduled, providing three full days of family-centered fun, celebrating springtime and Mariposa’s namesake. “Mariposa” is the Spanish word for butterfly.

Earlier this year, the butterfly committee purchased almost 80 pavilions and more than 4,000 butterfly larvae/caterpillars. The insects are being raised by Mariposa County schoolchildren and patients at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera.

As long as the weather cooperates, butterfly releases will take place throughout the three days, May 2-4. In cold weather, the life cycle slows down and metamorphosis takes longer. Mariposa students are most likely hoping and praying for temperatures to rise, so the cocoons will open before the festival.

“The kids love it,” said Marge Sharp, a retired teacher from Woodland Elementary School in Mariposa County. She taught kindergarten, first and second grades during her 15 years there.

Each caterpillar comes in its own container. The teachers of participating classrooms are given enough containers for each student.

While watching the caterpillars grow, the children record the life cycle by drawing or writing about the daily changes they observe.

“Every morning the kids would run in to count them, and see what changes took place,” Sharp continued.

In chrysalis form, the cocoons have a sparkly sheen, and the kids love looking at them. At this stage of growth, the insects cannot be touched. The chrysalides go into the pavilion, where they remain until they turn into butterflies and are ready to be released.

It’s an exciting time for the kids when the butterflies land on their faces and hands. Orange slices are held to attract the insects and offer nourishment.

“Letting them go is the hardest part,” Sharp said. “The children get so attached, and hate to watch them fly away.”

Even some grown-ups turn giddy when dozens of butterflies fill the air.

To officially start the festival, the butterfly hat competition and Taste of Mariposa will take place on Friday at 5 p.m. For $5, guests can sample foods and beverages from local restaurants. Craft your own headpiece and join the competition, or participate in silent and live auctions. This event will be held at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds.

On Saturday morning, the festival parade winds through town from 11 a.m. to noon. Winged creatures of all ages will accompany the floats. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, will also participate in the parade. He’s scheduled to speak in the Art Park at 11:45 a.m.

Local musicians will perform on Saturday afternoon and evening at the Art Park and/or on Seventh Street. Enjoy inspirational music on Sunday morning by area musicians and choirs.

Artwork and unique hand-crafted items by regional artists and artisans will be displayed at various locations in town. Handmade quilts will be on exhibit Saturday morning at the Mariposa County Museum and History Center. Other events include sidewalk chalk art and children’s games.

The festival is sponsored by Mariposa merchants. Typically, thousands of visitors attend. Most of the activities are free, including a complimentary breakfast Sunday morning (while supplies last) and parking all weekend.

Visit www.mariposabutterflyfestival.net to view festival details, schedule and more, or call the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce at (209) 966-2456. Also at the website, enjoy Stone Creek Gallery’s beautiful photos of past events by Charles Phillips, the festival’s official photographer.

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