I wanted to share some thoughts from the 2017 Texas Butterfly Festival now that I am safely back home.
This was my first TBF and enjoyed it immensely. The staff at the National Butterfly Center are all such wonderful people. Alex, one of their grounds guys, drove the van on two of the days I was there and was a very pleasant, even-keeled young man. Angie, the gift shop girl and field trip organizer, is always so kind and easy to talk to. My family and I had opportunity to pick her brain at length last year about setting up our Butterfly Ridge gift shop and she was so helpful. Even had the opportunity to chat a little bit with the NBC director Marianna Wright this year. Yet another very pleasant person and she shared their bait recipe!!
The field trip the first day was amazing. It was called the Military Highway trip and I guess in part, the reason it was so great was because all of the butterflies were new to me. Our leader Javier was excellent. Very personable and knowledgeable. We also did a lot of walking on that trip which my body needed after so many days on the road.
The weather was very hot, highs each day in the low 90's with humidity to match. The first day wasn't so bad since we kept moving, but the other days were a little tougher dealing with the heat as they were more garden observation trips out in the open without so much walking.
On the third day we were called back to the NBC early in the afternoon because of some rare butterfly sightings. Watching butterfly nerds dashing from rare butterfly to rare butterfly was almost as much fun as the butterflies themselves. It sort of reminded me in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie when Captain Jack gets the crew to race back and forth across the deck of the Black Pearl. Eventually they figured out why!
While I did not attend all of the evening activities, as I am not one for large social gatherings, I did attend the orientation the first night. I noted that I was one of the youngest in the room of participants, this just a few days before my 55th birthday. I'm not sure if this was by virtue of the festival taking place largely on weekdays, and therefore ruling out students and those who still work for a living, or if butterfly obsession anymore is reserved for the retired and independently wealthy. Sadly, it reminded me of something I had written in Butterfly Rider back in 2012.
"As I found myself struggling to stay upbeat about the project, I worked hard to convince myself that certainly the enjoyment of butterflies was not just for the wealthy, the self-employed, or the retired and single people of the world."
But I suspect that 95 percent of the participants in the 2017 Texas Butterfly Festival qualified as either the wealthy, self-employed, or retired. I have had these same concerns with my local butterfly club here in Ohio, as its membership largely falls into those same categories.
I take hope from the National Butterfly Center, as they have a very young staff, and they used several trip leaders that were easily in their 20's and 30's. I find this so important. As Rich Bailowitz shared with me years ago, "what's going to happen when all of us old farts die off?" That is why I am so pleased that NBC is introducing young people to the joy of butterflies. That is why we at Butterfly Ridge offer scholarship to graduating high school seniors looking to pursue studies in natural history subjects.
Now some photos from the 2017 Texas Butterfly Festival.