COLE — Kay Webb said there was a time when she expected to see large groups of monarch butterflies flying about her small McClain County community.
"Years ago, they would cover the fields, and the trees would just be orange, there were so many of them,” Webb said.
A freeze reduced the monarch population, but the colorful insects still converge on Cole about this time of year, she said.
In 2008, Webb, 65, and other Cole residents celebrated their city’s distinction as a stop on the monarch’s central flyway to Mexico. They held their first butterfly festival last October, expecting about 150 people, but 400 showed up.
Saturday, Cole will again welcome butterfly enthusiasts, gardeners, children and others hoping for a chance to see the delicate creatures on their annual journey.
The second annual Monarch Migration and Butterfly Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. will include a Parade of Butterflies, monarch release and other activities.
"I would describe our festival as quaint — homey, but very festive,” Annie Hart, festival coordinator, said with a laugh.
Hart and Webb said they found out that about 80 percent of the monarch population was lost after a hard freeze in 2002 at the insects’ nesting sites in Mexico. Hart said part of the reason for the festival is to educate people on ways to help the species thrive after such devastation.
To that end, the festival will include educational opportunities for people who want to know how to create a butterfly garden and butterfly migration.
Hart said she and other Cole butterfly enthusiasts learned that milkweed, called a host plant, is an ideal plant for monarchs to lay their eggs.
"While it may not be pretty, it is essential to the monarch’s survival,” she said.