MISSION — The National Butterfly Center was fluttering with community members for the 25th annual Texas Butterfly Festival.

The festival started off with Community Day on Saturday, where visitors could partake in family friendly activities and learn about the Rio Grande Valley’s wildlife.

Alex Gonzalez (1) smells a small the flower in his hand as he is held by his mother Valerie Sanchez during Community Day at the Texas Butterfly Festival at the National Butterfly Center on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Many butterfly enthusiasts traveled from outside of the region and the state to attend, such as Joanne McKenzie from Southern California, who said she was impressed with the event and spotted many butterfly species.

“I’ve seen queens, some soldiers and a couple others I haven’t been able to identify,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll check my field guides when I get home and identify those.”

Local school organizations participated in the festival, such as South Texas College’s Biology Club. Visitors could make recycled paper, view the diversity of pond water with a microscope and learn about environmental issues from the club.

The Biology Club regularly volunteers with the National Butterfly Center and has a garden area to support the center, said Mehrzad Mahmoudian-Geller, the club’s adviser.

“Every semester, we have a new group of students coming by,” said Mahmoudian-Geller. “One of our major activities is to take care of this garden and help the National Butterfly Center because it’s a non-governmental and nonprofit.”

Marianna Treviño-Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, said the nonprofit aims to educate and inspire a greater appreciation for the Valley’s ecosystem.

Butterfly patches are on display during Community Day at the Texas Butterfly Festival at the National Butterfly Center on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

While the center may be named after butterflies, it also educates guests about bees, bugs, birds, bats and even reptiles, said Treviño-Wright.

“We’re here to teach [people] all about the wildlife that belongs in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and how they work in a healthy ecosystem,” said the executive director.

“Nowhere else in North America has many of the butterflies that we have or the volume and diversity that we have,” added Treviño-Wright.

The National Butterfly Center is located in Mission near the Rio Grande.

President of the North American Butterfly Association and the founder of the National Butterfly Center, Jeffrey Glassberg, said some butterflies that can be seen throughout the year are monarchs, red-bordered patches, tawny emperors and Mexican bluewings.

“We’ve seen as many as 100 different kinds of butterflies in a single day here. Two-hundred-forty kinds of butterflies have been seen here,” Glassberg said.

The festival will continue to educate about the Valley’s butterfly species until Tuesday with expert guided field trips to public and private properties throughout the region. This year, attendees who provided proof of vaccination received a special rebate for the full festival, said Treviño-Wright.

Retired art teacher Carolyn Ottmers traveled from Champaign, Illinois to attend the festival and the field trips.

A small butterfly lands on a flower during Community Day at the Texas Butterfly Festival at the National Butterfly Center on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“I can’t wait to get signed up for the excursions, and I can’t wait to go on those trips and go foraging for butterflies. A lot of these butterflies I’ve only seen in books, so I’m looking forward to seeing them in real life,” Ottmers said.

Iliana Martinez, a biology student with a focus in environmental science at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, has been interning with the center this semester. She said she encourages people to learn more about the Valley’s native species through the National Butterfly Center.

“It’s important to recognize the beauty that’s here in the Rio Grande Valley because a lot of people think it’s just very one-dimensional, but it’s not,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of native life here, and I think we should appreciate that.”

For more information about the festival, visit www.texasbutterflyfestival.com.