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Butterflies launched at Gainesville park
1,500 insects released at Wilshire Trails Park
A butterfly rests before it takes off at Wilshire Trails Park. - photo by Tom Reed

Some 1,500 butterflies filled the skies Sunday afternoon over Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville.

They flew from packets opened by that number of people as part of the Friends of the Park annual butterfly release.

At least that many people filled the park for the launch, the culminating event in an afternoon that also featured musical entertainment, food vendors and children's activities, such as face painting and paper boat races in Rock Creek, which runs through Wilshire Trails.

Several community organizations, including the Hall County Master Gardeners and the Northeast Georgia History Center, also set up exhibits.

"We're doing this as a gift to the community," said Anne Chenault, president of Friends of the Park, a nonprofit organization that supports the Gainesville Parks and Recreation system.

"It always costs more to put this on that we take in. That's why we appreciate our sponsors and donors."

This is the 15th year the group has held the event.

The 1,500 painted lady butterflies, costing $4 apiece, arrived in tiny cardboard boxes on Saturday and were refrigerated overnight.

Organizers made sure the crowd was as still as possible for the event before going into a five-second countdown to launch the tiny creatures.

Applause followed the release, along with children chasing after the fluttering insects.

Cassandra McDaniel, who was at the event with her 4-year-old daughter, Cadence, and their 6-year-old dog, Mojo, nearly missed last year's event.

"We almost forgot about it. We came early this year and (Cadence) did everything, which was fun," said McDaniel, of Gainesville.

Matt Harris, at the event with daughters Evelyn, 5, and Annabelle, 4, said this was the family's first time attending the release.

He made plans after hearing about it from a garden club member.

"They love flowers and they love butterflies," said Harris, a Gainesville resident for six months, of the two girls.