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Area families spend warm Sunday releasing butterflies
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A butterfly lands on Abby Radu's nose while sister Emily looks on Sunday, May 19, at the annual Butterfly Release at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville. - photo by Jeff Gill

Three-year-old Lake Kendall was almost too excited to speak.

Describing the painted lady butterfly’s journey as it left his finger, the Gainesville boy said it “went ‘round and ‘round and ‘round.”

Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways’ 23rd annual Butterfly Release was an utter delight for children and their families, as they watched the colorful insects fly back to the wild from little packets where they were stored.

“This is a great event,” said Manuela Radu of Gainesville, with daughters Abby and Emily.

Some 1,500 butterflies were launched Sunday, May 19, at the event, which serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways.

That’s about one butterfly per two people, as the event itself was estimated to attract 3,000 people to Wilshire Trails Park off Chestatee Road.

The event “is about bringing awareness to the trails and getting people to the parks,” said Chris Morgan, the group’s vice chairman. “School is about to get over with, so we’re hoping people will come out and … use the parks. They’re paying for them; they’re there.”

Children and families used the opportunity to enjoy the warm weather, spending time on the playground or by the creek that winds through the park.

Amiya Ervin, a student at Mundy Mill Learning Academy, was also recognized for drawing the winning butterfly design for the event’s T-shirt. Grandmother Betty Yeldell said she was proud of her granddaughter but not totally surprised by her winning the contest.

“She’s an honor student,” Yeldell said.

The event also attracted several vendors, including environmental groups.

“This is a conservation project for us,” said Mary Bob Fox of the Gainesville Phoenix Women’s Club, a service organization.