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Gainesville residents to release 1,500 butterflies May 21 at Wilshire Trails Park
21st annual event serves as fundraiser for Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways
0511 GO Butterfly1
Owen Lester watches as one of the 1,500 painted lady butterflies lands on his father Brian’s finger during last year’s annual Butterfly Release at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville.

21st annual Butterfly Release
When: 1-4 p.m. May 21
Where: Wilshire Trails Park, 849 Wilshire Road NW, Gainesville
Cost: Free
More info:

For the past 20 years, Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways has brought a butterfly-filled afternoon to the local community.

At 1 p.m. Sunday, May 21, the group will once again bring 1,500 butterflies to Wilshire Trails Park for the 21st annual Butterfly Release. The release will be at 3 p.m. at 849 Wilshire Road NW, Gainesville.

Of the expected 2,000 crowd of parents and children, all will get to participate.

“People helps us by helping their children gently open the packet and release the butterfly,” said Kim Davis, public relations chairwoman for Friends of the Park. “Most everybody gets to release a butterfly or to help someone else release a butterfly.”

And no matter the weather, Davis encourages people to attend.

“If it rains, we still have to release 1,500 butterflies,” she said. “So if it rains, please come anyway and we will be under the pavilion.”

The release acts as a major fundraiser for the Friends of the Park through sales of T-shirts and butterfly-related items at the event.

“What we do with that money is we give that money to Gainesville Parks and Rec or other organizations that are doing things to beautify and maintain our parks,” Davis said.

She said the organization helps to promote the youth and care of the parks and greenways around Gainesville.

Davis said she believed the Butterfly Release was started to involve the community in seeing types of work the organization actually does.

“And releasing the butterflies, that’s part of the ecology of the parks,” she said. “And so it’s just a fun, family day to get families together to come out.”

While the butterflies are the main attraction, she listed a plethora of other activities, including sailboat races, face painting by the Gainesville High School football cheerleaders, and different arts and crafts at various booths.

About 20 vendors and different nonprofits will be there

“At most of their booths, they have information about what they do and/or a craft for the kids, usually related to butterflies,” Davis said. “Mostly playing in the creek is the favorite part for the kids, and getting their face painted.”

But some Gainesville children were already involved with the event. Davis explained the T-shirts sold are products of a coloring contest.

“Each year, we take turns among the elementary schools in Gainesville for the coloring contest for the artwork that will be on the T-shirt,” she said.

School children at a chosen school are given a coloring sheet with the outline of the design in black and white. Each year, a different school competes with Enota Multiple Intelligence Academy being selected this year.

“All the third-grade students at Enota colored a coloring shirt with this same basic design, and their art teacher submitted their work to me,” Davis said. “Myself and a panel of six other people on the board looked at all the artwork that was submitted.”

The top winner was Anthony Ong.

“His artwork will be on this year’s T-shirt,” she said. “And all the artwork of all the kids will be on display at this year’s release.’’

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