Despite a steady drizzle, hundreds turned out Sunday afternoon for the 13th annual butterfly release at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville.
The weather forced an earlier-than-scheduled release of the painted lady butterflies, handed out to children in individual packets.
Afterward, families chased the colorful insects as they landed on freshly planted flowers, taking pictures as children gently propped them up on their fingers.
Children also scampered toward Wilshire Trails’ other amenities, including a playground and a creek flowing through the park.
Visitors lamented the weather, which kept many under umbrellas or the park pavilion, but said they enjoyed the atmosphere.
“I didn’t realize how big an event it was,” said Lynn White, who was with her daughter, Elizabeth Buck, and her family, of Dahlonega. “I was surprised when I saw the parking.”
Or lack thereof. The park has a small lot, so people parked their cars up and down neighboring streets.
The butterfly release is the centerpiece event at Sunday in the Parks, a day of family fun sponsored by the Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways.
Selena Smith brought her three daughters — including Brooklyn, who had four butterflies on her arm — and parents, Greg and Jeri Mansur.
“I think it’s cool,” said Greg Mansur, who has lived in Gainesville off and on since the late 1960s, of the event. “I love this park. I remember this park when it wasn’t a park.”
Several organizations, including the Northeast Georgia History Center in Gainesville and Hall County Master Gardeners, set up booths for the event.
Tammy Dellinger of Hall County Master Gardeners said her group made bracelets and paper butterflies for visitors. “We had a large, large crowd of children, and we want to involve the children in the community,” she said.
All proceeds from the butterfly release — entry was free, but food was available for purchase — will benefit Friends of Gainesville Parks and Greenways.
The group’s purpose “is to serve as a resource to help develop and preserve natural links within our community,” said its president, Ben Hawkins. “We specifically look at linking neighborhoods, parks, schools, even businesses.”
The group has been involved with development of the Rock Creek Greenway Corridor, which is expected to be completed by early summer.
The next project for the group is the Midtown Greenway, where a $100,000 Recreation Trails grant will help start work on an 11-acre tract of land in the midtown area of Gainesville.
“Eventually, the Midtown Greenway is going to tie in the Central Hall County Greenway so you’ll have a trail that goes all the way from downtown Gainesville, really (Lake Lanier), to Oakwood,” Hawkins said.