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Fly, butterfly, fly!
1,000 monarchs, painted ladies take flight this Sunday
London Harper, a third-grader at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, created this T-shirt design. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

A burst of butterflies will fly over Wiltshire Trails Park this Sunday for the 12th annual Butterfly Release.

Kids will be invited to release 1,000 monarchs and painted ladies during the highlight of the day's activities, sponsored by Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways, a nonprofit organization of volunteers that is affiliated with the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department.

"It's just a great event. We have ‘kids' from age 3 to 93," said Jim Pilgrim, president of the group. "The p arents enjoy it as much as the kids do."

Other events for children include an inflatable playground, face painting, paper sailboat races and a visit with city fire trucks.

This year's butterfly release also included a T-shirt design contest, with entries from elementary schools around the county. London Harper, a third-grader from Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, won the contest with her bright orange and red butterfly design.

"I wanted to make it original, to make it different and pretty," she said. "And just to have fun."

Connie Propes, chairwoman of the butterfly release committee for Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways, said it was difficult to judge the nearly 500 entries.

"The children's creativity is just so rewarding," she said.

Last year's event drew more than 1,000 people, Propes said.

The butterflies' release takes only a moment, but the path to liberation begins when they are shipped all the way from Minnesota. They are kept in coolers until the time of their release, when they are handed out in envelopes.

In previous years, according to Propes, the biggest problem has been children accidentally stepping on the butterflies - fresh out of hibernation - when they fall back toward the ground looking for food and water.

"The purpose of the butterfly release is to have fun of course, but also to bring attention to our parks and what we have to offer to the public," Pilgrim said.