South Bergenite Column on Butterfly Day

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Freya Anthony, then 3½ years old, was one of the delightful surprises of our first Butterfly Day in 2010.

Jim Wright, who maintains this blog, also writes a twice-monthly column for the South Bergenite. His latest is on this Sunday’s Butterfly Day at DeKorte Park:

It all began nearly five years ago, almost as an after-thought. Don Torino, the president of Bergen County Audubon Society, and I were discussing his group’s new collaboration with the Meadowlands Commission.

Wouldn’t it be fun, we decided, if the two groups sponsored a free butterfly walk at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, the home of the NJMC?

More than 70 people participated in that first walk, and Butterfly Day was born the following July, in 2010.

To our amazement, more than 175 people showed up for that first Butterfly Day. The North Jersey chapter of the North American Butterfly Association joined in, and this family-friendly day has been growing every year since.

This Sunday (July 28) will be our fourth big day.  Since the first year, we have been tweaking and adjusting the programming. This year — butterflies willing — this just might be the best yet.

The biggest addition is a Butterfly Costume Contest for children ages 12 and under. NJMC Executive Director Marcia Karrow (and butterfly lover) came up with the idea while admiring photos of last year’s event.

“There was this adorable little girl dressed up as a butterfly, with face paint and wings and antennae, and I just thought of it,” Karrow says. “Children love to dress up, and children love butterflies – a perfect opportunity!”

The first child I can remember coming all decked out in a costume was Freya Anthony, back in 2010. She was only 3½ years old at the time, and her mom, Anita, mentioned the idea to her since they had wings — “We love fairies and butterflies and playing dress-up,” Anita Anthony says.

According to Anita, Freya’s best memory was seeing all of the butterflies and being in the newspaper.

“She absolutely loves coming to the Butterfly Day and also hunting for butterflies, moths and skippers in our own yard,” Anita says. “She’s getting pretty good with the ID’ing!”

That’s one of the great things about butterflies — and Butterfly Day. In this digital age, connecting kids with nature in an enjoyable way can be challenging.

Butterflies, so delicate and beautiful, are a non-threatening way for kids to see nature up-close. Many folks think insects are icky, but butterflies are the exception.

They don’t buzz, sting or bite, and on a sunny summer day, they are a nice excuse to spend time outdoors — even if there’s never any guarantee that butterflies will be around when you go looking.

Jill’s Garden, just outside the Environment Center, is a great spot to find butterflies. The garden was created in memory of Jill Ann Ziemkiewicz, a Rutherford native who was the youngest crew member aboard the TWA Flight 800 that crashed off Long Island in July 1996.

The garden has several butterfly bushes in bloom plus many other stunning flowers that attract butterflies all summer long.

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