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Butterfly passion grips KWEC
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Sean Polly, watches a monarch butterfly sip watermelon juice during the Kansas Wetlands Butterfly Festival on Saturday.

Roving giant monarch butterfly and hummingbird puppets competed for attention with the live creatures flying in the fields and garden at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center on Saturday, during the annual Butterfly Festival.

While one young attendant said she liked catching butterflies the most, Tinesha Dewald had another favorite.

“There was a lot but mostly I liked the puppet show. There was a caterpillar that was scared and a ladybug that helped him.”

A crowd of around 550 attended the event, said KWEC Director Curtis Wolf. Participants moved through several activities indoors, including crafts, a honey bee exhibit, games and the insect zoo, which proved popular. Children could be seen with walking stick insects climbing their arms, petting hissing cockroaches and watching monarch butterflies feeding.

“We loved it,” said Laura Blankenship, Great Bend. “We really like seeing the small creatures and the fact they get to touch them. And we really liked launching the seed bombs.”

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It takes two puppeteers to man the large monarch butterfly puppet, which was taken outside in-between puppet shows.
This is the second year she has brought her children to the event. 

Outdoors, children could dress up in butterfly and bee costumes and soar through the garden, have a photo taken at the photo booth, make and sling flower seed bombs, learn about compost and catch and tag monarch butterflies.

“We didn’t hit the peak this year,” said Pam Martin, KDWPT program specialist, “but we hit the start of the migration and tagged 62 caught by participants.”

Another 13 monarchs raised by KWEC were tagged and released for a total of 75. Martin said more tagging events will occur throughout the tagging season, which usually runs until the beginning of October. Dates will be posted on the KWEC Facebook page.

This year, Fort Hays State University Tourism and Hospitality students provided activities. Four groups of students developed educational activities focusing on the monarch butterfly’s migration. Two activities involved the life cycle, another host and nectar plants and still another the migration.

Obviously proud of a bright backdrop of flowers and milkweed, one student said she really had to work to find silk flowers that looked like milkweed. She then demonstrated how the kids put the caterpillar, chrysalis and adult on the proper plants.

The first stop after registration for most visitors is the cookie table filled with homemade cookies provided by volunteers and staff. Of over 80 dozen cookies, only crumbs were left.

Great volunteers make the event possible, Wolf noted. “We couldn’t put on this event without all the volunteers.”