The 2013 Butterfly Festival recap: Sunshiny images for this rainy day 2

It seems like here in North Florida, it’s either feast or famine when it comes to rain. Today we’re feasting…more like drowning, really!

If this keeps up, we'll have to name this river!

So it seemed like a great day to reflect on last Saturday’s sunshine-filled celebration of a critter that’s most definitely not flying about today. The 12th annual Joseph A. Strasser Butterfly Festival at Tree Hill Nature Center was every bit as ideal as the weather we had for it: upper 70s, sunshine and a nice breeze all day long.

Interesting butterfly trivia and quotes were chalked throughout the trails at Tree Hill.

Families started rolling in as soon as the gates opened and stayed long after the festival was over. One Tree Hill staffer told us that there are always plenty of people who end up walking back to their cars at the off-site parking long after the free shuttle arranged by the event’s organizers stops running. We don’t have an official count of attendees, but we can say there was a constant, heavy stream of people down the path on which the majority of the vendor-participants were situated.

TOA's home for the day.

And what a crowd it was—old, young, families, singles, kids and more kids! There were those with lots of earth-friendly experience and those with none. How exciting it is to connect with so many different kinds of people on so many different levels. The kids who came by our table got butterfly, flower and animal stickers while the adults signed up for our T-shirt drawing (more on that later) and got some information on reducing indoor air pollution, eliminating toxic household substances, energy efficiency, food safety and security, and much, much more.

Colorful butterfly banners flew in the open areas of the preserve.

Actually, it wasn’t just adults, of course. One little girl told us all about her organic raised-bed garden (yay!), a young man shyly offered that he was hoping to get earth-friendly ideas for Boy Scout projects and a sweet little wing-wearing eco-warrior told us about her concern for sustainability. If nothing else, we got a renewed sense of hope for the future from the Butterfly Festival.

The butterfly parachute canopy was a big hit!

No one can resist a colorful bouncy slide!

It was so busy, we didn’t get much of a chance to walk around during the festival, but we were situated right behind the amphitheater and the live entertainment sounded great and seemed like a big hit. Around about 3:10 or so, everyone started moving in one direction down the path toward the field on the other side of the amphitheater trying to score a good spot for the butterfly release. At 3:30, all of us along the path turned in that direction, hoping to see the rainbow of wings paint the sky. The excitement of the countdown was palpable, and the cheer upon the release could surely have been heard across town. A few minutes later, butterflies started filtering back to us in the woods, searching for shady spots and flowers.

A restful spot

After the festival, we got a chance to walk around and see the Pink Flamingo Arts tent where kids had been painting pottery; the butterfly tent, which was still packed full of people visiting with the winged “Nature Deficit Disorder” therapists; and the amazing Arlington Community Garden, hosted on the grounds of Tree Hill.

The butterfly tent is always a big draw.

The envy-inducing Arlington Community Garden...look at those Brussels sprout greens!

We also got a peek at the brand new boardwalk trail. It looks like it’s going to be an amazing addition, allowing people even greater access to this urban nature preserve. And, of course, we caught sight of a few butterflies resting after their big day.

The merest peek at the new boardwalk trail

Can you spot the butterfly?

What a fantastic day everyone had enjoying nature, entertainment and education in one of our city’s treasured natural spaces, Tree Hill. Even if you didn’t get to come out to the festival this year, make plans to come out to Tree Hill soon. They have so much to offer: excellent natural history and nature exhibits in the Nature Center; First Friday Twilight Treks that include dinner, natural history stories, hands-on experiments, a guided trail tour and owl calling; a book club; Saturday programs—we can’t even list it all here! You can rent space for birthday parties at Tree Hill or rent the amphitheater for bigger events. Tree Hill also offers memberships.

During the festival, we were asked so many great questions that we thought it would be a good idea to share just a few below. Question answering is what we do, so if you’d like to set up a consultation, please use the Contact page to get in touch!

Finally, if you signed up for the T-shirt drawing, remember that you must respond to the confirmation email you received in order to complete your entry. If you didn’t get a confirmation email, please check your spam folder. If it’s not there, go to our home page and enter the same email you used at the festival where it says “Follow By Email,” and then follow the instructions that appear.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to make sure our kayaks are sound…just in case!

FAQs from the Festival

I thought all that “green living” stuff was more expensive. Can you really save money by living sustainably?

Yes! This question was prompted by a graphic that we always have at our event table. It shows the cost comparison of three very basic sustainable-living recommendations with their “conventional” counterparts. For example, did you know that a family of four can save more than $100 a year by using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper napkins and towels? Now think of all the other single-use paper products we typically have in our homes and workplaces…it really adds up!

Are there any good farmers markets in town?

That’s a huge yes! Lots of people wanted to know about farmers markets, the number of which has exploded in Jacksonville in the past couple of years. Keep in mind that not all farmers markets are equal; there may be specific things you want to look for or avoid. That said, there’s a listing of Jacksonville farmers markets under the Jax Farmers Markets tab here on our site. It even includes a link to a map of their approximate locations! For our far-flung readers, try starting with the Local Harvest website.

Where can I find a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm?

We talked with a number of people about sustainable agriculture and the benefits of local, organic food. Some were new to the area and some were new to the idea of getting their food from someplace other than the grocery store, but they all wanted to know where they could find such local businesses to invest in! Just as with farmers markets, there are things you’ll want to consider before subscribing to a farm – locations of drop-offs or pick-ups and a match between their practices and your values are just a couple – and you’ll need to remember that there are differences between a single-farm CSA and a co-op. That said, two CSA farms in Jacksonville are KYV Farm and Down to Earth Farm and two area co-ops are The Veggie Bin and Urban Organics. Again, there are a number of CSAs and co-ops in the area and, of course, tons around the country, so start with the Local Harvest website above or try the Co-op Directory Service Listing or do a search in Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guide.

Where can I get a set of reusable utensils?

We usually have our sustainable dining pouch on display at events, and lots of people asked about the awesome reusable utensils in it. Ours are To-Go Ware, which we bought locally at Native Sun Natural Foods Market. We seem to remember they may be on sale there now. If you’re not in the area, use the “Retailers” tab at the To-Go Ware website to find a retailer in your area.

Do you have a question for The Organic Adventurer?

Contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

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