The National Butterfly Center received national attention this past summer not because of new butterflies in the area, but due to the federal government trespassing on the center’s private property to clear land for the border wall.
The discovery, made by the center’s Executive Director Mariana Treviño-Wright, was covered by major news outlets such as The Texas Observer, NBC News and the BBC.
The center ultimately became a flashpoint in the debate regarding President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, which several outlets have reported would tear through the butterfly center and other nature and wildlife refuges across the border.
Despite the attention, Treviño-Wright is looking forward to the center’s 22nd annual Texas Butterfly Festival, a four-day celebration held at the peak of the butterfly migration season.
“The people who come down here for the festival are predominantly out of towners who come down here at the peak of butterfly migration season to experience what happens here during that time,” Treviño-Wright said. “Last year we had visitors from 25 states and five different countries.”
The festival, which is set to run from Saturday, Nov. 4 through Tuesday, Nov. 7, celebrates the more than 1,200 species of plants, 500 species of birds and more than 300 species of butterflies in the area. For this year’s festival, Treviño-Wright said the center will be adding a new activity for attendees, while keeping many of the familiar activities the public has come to enjoy.
New this year is the Monarch 5K Trail Run & 1Mile Fun Run to be held on the grounds of the center, located at 3333 Butterfly Park in Mission. Advance registration is required for this event, where participants will receive a commemorative Monarch medal and be given seed bombs of native wildflowers to toss along the trail routes. The run starts at 8 a.m. on Saturday, before the center opens for Community Day when entrance to the park is free.
“Community Day is our biggest event of the festival,” Treviño-Wright said, adding that last year’s Community Day drew in nearly 2,500 people. “Community day is always vibrant. I hope everyone comes out to see this beautiful place, the amazing butterflies and other wildlife, so they gain an appreciation for the wonderful landscape and creatures of deep South Texas and decide they want to do something to preserve it.”
The keynote speaker for the event is Samuel Jaffe, a New England-based naturalist, photographer, and educator who created The Caterpillar Lab. He will be presenting to the public at Community Day, and as the Keynote Speaker at the festival’s banquet on Monday, Nov. 6 at 6 p.m.
The full Texas Butterfly Festival includes trips to butterfly hot spots across the Valley complete with tour guides and transportation. For $330, people can register to attend tours to public and private lands, many of which are only accessible to visitors through the festival. The tour also includes iconic sites such as the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge and La Sal del Rey Lake. Food for festival registrants is prepared by members of the Texas Chef’s Association Rio Grande Valley Chapter.
According to Treviño-Wright, the last day to register for the festival tours is today. Registration can be done online at the Texas Butterfly Festival website.
“The feedback for previous festivals has been phenomenal,” Treviño-Wright said. “Attendees say they’ve had an amazing time with all the people and the food here, and of course, the butterflies. We really showcase everything that the RGV should be famous for in terms of our hospitality, diversity, fresh, flavorful foods, knowledgeable naturalists and wildlife.”