The New Jersey Audubon Nature Center of Cape May will hold its inaugural Monarch Festival 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8 at 1600 Delaware Ave.
The event will feature crafts, games, tours, workshops, butterfly tagging demonstrations, a food and beer garden, and live music by Jay Bethel of the band Bluebone.
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Crafts being planned include making and decorating kites for the Migration Parade, which will make its way down Delaware Avenue later in the day. Nature Center volunteers will be on hand for face painting, helping to create butterfly terrariums, and decorating critter catchers, which are available at the center’s nature store. In recognition of the monarch migration to Mexico, guests can tie-dye festive bandanas and design postcards, in Spanish, to be sent to Mexico. There will be games including giant Jenga, cornhole and Yahtzee.
Sanctuary director Gretchen Whitman will lead tours and native plant discussions in the recently completed wildlife meadow habitat adjacent to the center. Teacher and naturalist Brendan Schaffer will show visitors how to make and maintain a bug “bed and breakfast.”
The Monarch Monitoring Project, a research and education-focused project established in 1990 by New Jersey Audubon, will demonstrate twice during the festival how monarch butterflies are tagged. Under the directorship of Mark Garland, the Monarch Monitoring Project collects data, conducts research and educates schoolchildren and the public about the monarch butterfly’s fall migration along the Atlantic Coast. Data collection is a critically important facet of the project, which involves team members counting, catching and tagging migrating monarchs, a press release from the center stated.
Recording the activities of an insect that weighs less than a paper clip as it travels more than 2,500 miles to its overwintering grounds high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico is nothing less than a calling for the naturalists who staff and volunteer for this project, Whitman said.
The Nature Center of Cape May’s efforts to preserve the monarch included procuring and selling more than 500 milkweed plants at its annual native plant sale. Buying, planting and caring for milkweed plants, which the monarch caterpillars feed on, is something just about anyone can do to help the species survive, she said.
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“Put simply, monarchs cannot and will not survive without milkweed,” Whitman said in a press release. “Monarch butterflies need milkweed to lay their eggs, and then their young subsist on a diet exclusively of milkweed plants.”
Unfortunately, she said, milkweed is often misidentified as a common weed, and “modern” land management practices have all but eradicated it from public and private landscapes and farms. Gardeners target it, farmers spread herbicides to kill it, and homeowners pull it as a weed.
“But thanks to organizations like New Jersey Audubon, the pendulum has slowly begun to swing back in favor of milkweed, and hence, the monarch butterfly, she said.
Beer and wine purveyors at the festival will include Belleview Winery, La Dona Mexican Restaurant and Kramer Beverage.
During the festival visitors can watch artists creating artwork 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Nature Center as part of the ongoing Create Today art event. The artists will then sell their work at a reception beginning at 3.
Artists keep 80 percent of the sale price, and a portion goes to the Good Neighbor Fund, which provides summer camp scholarships for the children of U.S. Coast Guard members.
For more information about Create Today or the Monarch Festival call the Nature Center of Cape May at 609-427-3045 or see njaudubon.org/centers/nccm.