A bevy of butterflies, caterpillars and moths were on full display at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden’s fourth annual Butterfly Festival.
The festival, organized by Williamsburg Botanical Garden board members in collaboration with the local chapters of the Virginia Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, hosted over 2,000 area residents on Saturday. Once they arrived at the garden, located in James City County’s Freedom Park, visitors could hear lectures on butterfly care from volunteers, participate in arts and crafts projects or just simply stroll through the two-acre garden and admire the colorful insects all around them.
The event’s biggest attractions, however, were over 300 live butterflies fluttering around two butterfly tents supplied by Catherine Short, a Virginia Master Naturalist based in West Point. There, attendees could get up-close and personal with eight different species of butterflies native to Virginia. Upon entering the tents, visitors were given cotton swabs dipped in Gatorade to feed the sugar-hungry butterflies.
Former Williamsburg Botanical Garden chairwoman Karen Jamison said the event had a good chance of breaking its previous attendance record of 4,000 visitors.
“It’s been hugely successful,” she said. “On a beautiful day like this, it’s just wonderful because it really brings all kinds of people out to enjoy the event.”
Garden board member Geoff Suter said the festival began in 2015 to bring awareness to and raise money for the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. Since that first year, where only 500 area residents came out to enjoy the butterflies, he said the event has grown exponentially through word of mouth.
“In Richmond, they’ve got Lewis Ginter and Norfolk has its botanical garden, but there was a void between the two and some people just don’t travel there, so this was a good way to have the festival centrally located,” Suter said. “Williamsburg’s not that big, and as you can tell, lots of people come out for it.”
James City County residents Daniel and Christal O’Connor visit the botanical garden regularly, and said they’ve been looking forward to the Butterfly Festival for weeks.
“We’ve visited the garden before, but never with this many people,” Daniel said. “You can just see all the butterflies and bees just soaking it all up. They love it.”
The festivities were sponsored by the Green Spring Garden Club, a local non-profit who provided the botanical garden with a $4,000 grant to put on the event. The group has been sponsoring the Butterfly Festival since its inception, and its members were also on hand to greet attendees as they entered the garden.
Member Marijane Harper said the organization was happy to support the educational event.
“It’s a learning experience, it’s educational for the community and for the children, and it promotes the garden,” she said. “We believe in the botanical gardens, and you couldn’t get a better educational experience then getting hands-on.”
Want to go?
The Williamsburg Botanical Garden’s Butterfly Festival will continue Sunday, August 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 5535 Centerville Rd.
The 300 butterflies in the two tents will be released into the park at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to the event is free, but donations are encouraged. For more information, visit www.williamsburgbotanicalgarden.org.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.