The butterfly festival will include a butterfly release, insect zoo

The Insect Zoo at the Butterfly Festival. (photo sent)

The annual Butterfly Festival will feature a 500-butterfly field trip and insect zoo at the University of Tennessee Arboretum on Saturday, September 17.

It’s the seventh annual festival, and it’s scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 17 in the auditorium of the UT Arboretum and surrounding area at 901 South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge.

The festival is presented by the UT Arboretum Society. The goal is to educate the public and teach people how to protect these pollinators, a press release said.

The UT Insect Zoo, two butterfly tents, educational talks, a butterfly release and children’s art activities are among the educational activities that will be offered, according to the press release.

The butterfly release is scheduled for noon.

“Please allow ample time for arrival and parking before exiting,” the press release reads.

Kids can help free all 500 painted lady butterflies. The cost is $5 per butterfly, and cash or credit cards will be accepted. The charge is to cover costs, the press release said. Butterflies must be purchased early in the day due to limited supply.

“For everyone’s safety, the use of butterfly nets at this event is strictly prohibited,” the statement read.

The UT Insect Zoo is a traveling insect exhibit that features preserved and live insects and arachnids (scorpions, tarantulas, etc.) found in Tennessee and around the world. Children of all ages will enjoy the zoo, the press release says.

“The goal of the Insect Zoo is to have fun while sharing knowledge about insects with others to help them appreciate the important role of insects in our environment,” the statement read.

Those who attend will get a better view of the butterflies and insects in two butterfly-watching tents operated by members of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Two speakers will give presentations in the air-conditioned auditorium of the UT Arboretum. From 10 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., naturalist Stephen Lyn Bales will present “Our Beloved Butterflies and Their Hosts.” Bales is the monthly educator for the UT Arboretum Society’s Zoom virtual educational program, the First Thursday Nature Supper Club. He is a retired senior naturalist from the Ijams Nature Center and author of three books, “Natural Histories”, “Ghost Birds” and “Ephemeral by Nature”, which will be available for sale.

After Bales, writer Georgann Eubanks will present “Habitat Heroes: Saving the Wild South for All of Us” beginning at 10:50 a.m. Eubanks writes about the history, culture and environment of the South, the press release said. His latest book, “Saving the Wild South: The Fight for Native Plants on the Brink of Extinction,” will be available for sale and signing. The book examines “how the region’s incredible biodiversity helps shape our culture and identity as Southerners,” the press release reads.

In addition to these two speakers, Shirley Raines, local author of two children’s books titled “Butterflies and Birds”, will be selling her books.

Parking will be available in designated areas of the UT Arboretum adjacent to the festival and on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is $5 cash per car. All other purchases can be made with cash or credit card, the press release said. The gate will open at 9:30 a.m., and the festival will take place rain or shine.

Craft activities for children will be available at a cost of $1 per activity or $5 for six tickets. Activities include temporary tattoos, butterfly masks, Magic Color Scratch butterfly ornaments, decorative cookies, caterpillar bracelets, and more.

The festival will feature local artists Kathy Fahey, Stephen Lyn Bales, Kris Light and Teresa Myrick, all of whom will feature butterfly-themed merchandise, according to the press release.

There will be food trucks at the festival, and the public can bring refillable water bottles.

The Butterfly Festival is co-sponsored by UT’s Center for Forest Resources Research and Education.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

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