Organizers of the first Monarch Festival Saturday in Azalea Park were pleased with the outcome of the event and the number of people who attended.

“We really exceeded any expectations that I had,” said Dennis Triglia, one of the organizers of the event.

Another organizer and Brookings Oregon Monarch Advocates (BOMA) founder Vicki Mion said “This was the first annual. We wanted to start small. By the community outpouring of support I’m sure this will be the first of many.

“People loved that it was free, wholesome education and entertainment for the whole family — from babies to great-grandparents.”

Although organizers had varying numbers of how many attended, they did give out more than 400 drawing tickets. Some organizers estimate as many as 600 attended as many did not stop by to enter the drawings.

Each ticket included the name and residence zip code to help keep track of where people came from. Organizers will tally this information in the near future, Triglia said.

Among the dignitaries attending the festival were Russell Stubbles and his wife, Bev, the directors of the Monarch City/Monarch School USA program from Washington state.

“They told me that Brookings outdid all the other Monarch City USA municipalities whose festivals they had attended in the past,” Triglia said. “We are truly blessed to have so many creative people in the Brookings Oregon Monarch Advocates.”

Russell fluttered about the festival grounds between KidTown and the park’s gardens and gazebo greeting visitors and passing out stickers with a picture of a butterfly. Bev, also known as “Mrs. Monarch City,” shared information in a Chrysalis Tent, which was part of a interactive course for children.

The course began with children emerged from a giant monarch egg. They then crawled through a tunnel resembling a caterpillar before entering the chrysalis tent. Once they emerged from the chrysalis, volunteers fitted the children with wings and led them around the grounds pretending to fly.

“We estimated over 100 kids went through complete metamorphosis and earned their wings,” said Statia Ryder, education and outreach coordinator for the Curry Watersheds Partnership, who helped children fly.

Organizers thought the events for children, which also included face painting, rock painting and chalk art drawing on the sidewalks, went well.

“Everyone pitched in and really the children were first and foremost in our minds,” said Patsy Haggerty, a BOMA founder and event organizer.

“When Cynthia Griffith told us about the 24-foot caterpillar, I laughed and said, ‘Let’s get a bowling ball so they can push it through the caterpillar for frass (excrement).’”

Sandra Schoppert, Master Gardener, supplied the ball.

“The kids loved the idea,” Haggerty said There were “lots of squeals there.”

There were activities for adults, too, including booths with information about the anatomy of the monarchs and plant tables that included milkweed, the butterfly’s primary source of food.

Chetco Brewery and Curry County Cruisers Car Club loaned all the canopies and tables, Haggerty said.

Although attendance was good, it was not a good year for the number of monarchs that were released at the festival.

“This year was a bad year for monarchs in Brookings and coastal points north of here,” Triglia said. “I suspect that the surrounding wildfires coupled with many cool foggy mornings during the summer kept them further inland.”

Brookings only had about two dozen monarch eggs laid on only one of our citizen scientist’s milkweed plants, so BOMA members had to drive to Elkton and Medford to get eggs from colleagues.

“Last year I hand raised, tagged and released 87 monarchs myself. Other members did more than 100 each,” Triglia said. “This year, I only released one monarch.”

During the festival, a total of 15 to 20 were released, according to Mion and Trigilia.

However, on a positive note, one butterfly emerged from its chrysalis at the festival, Mion said.

Plans will begin Thursday for next year’s festival, which organizers hope to make bigger and improve upon from what they learned this year.

Among the improvements are more vendors, including food and musical entertainment.

“We had a few requests from vendors who wanted to set up there but for our first one, we thought it better to do a ‘wait and see,’” Haggerty said.

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