Music and Monarchs Festival is a time to listen and learn

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Derek Stone, Ankeny, gets up close and personal with a monarch butterfly.

Clayton Ridge students recently planted butterfly milkweed and common milkweed, which provide a habitat for monarchs.

By Kim Hurley

Freelance Writer

Almost everyone has grown up with some kind of memory or experience with the distinctly colored monarch butterfly. Even though this iconic species seems as familiar as the rising sun, there are many things about monarchs that are a complete mystery to most. What is the life cycle and migration of the monarch and how does it get to Iowa each year?  Why has its population declined 90 percent since 1992?  How do milkweed plants in Iowa contribute to the migration journey back to Mexico? You can find answers to these and other questions at the Music and Monarchs Festival on Saturday, May 9, from 1 to 7 p.m., at Founders Park in Elkader.

“We are hoping people leave the event with a knowledge of the very unique life cycle and long distance migration of the monarch,” Gary Siegwarth, President of Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network (CAN), who shared the intents of the festival, “We also want people to better understand how habitat loss effects species such monarchs and what each of us can do to promote a more diverse and healthy landscape.”  He explains there are also hundreds of lesser known species being slowly eliminated from a once diverse landscape in Clayton County and throughout Iowa. By preserving or restoring a small portion of habitat back to the land, we not only help a multitude of other species, we also reduce soil erosion, promote soil health, reduce flooding, and improve water quality. 

How does music go hand in hand with monarchs?  “We want to promote landscape diversity in a fun and entertaining way so people get inspired by learning about the function of the land and the long-term benefits of good land stewardship,” Gary shares enthusiastically, “at the same time, it’s a great way to bring a lot of people to Elkader and Clayton County.”

The Music and Monarch Festival will feature five different artists/bands including The Way Down Wanderers; Jon “Hawk” Stravers of Big Blue Sky; The Driftless Sisters; David Zollo; and local musician and Central Community High School graduate, Sophia Landis.  The feature band, The Way Down Wanderers, is an up and coming Americana/Bluegrass Band that was recently voted as the top emerging band in the Chicago area. They write all of their own music and will give a festival kickoff performance at JR’s in Farmersburg on Friday, May 8 at 9:00 p.m..  

In addition to the great diversity of music, the wide variety of activities for both kids and adults will include free Milkweed plants (the only host plant of monarchs), monarch face painting, kids’ butterfly crafts and mask-making, a butterfly collection display, and a honey bee demonstration and glass-enclosed hive.  There will also be a Habitat Education Station including the monarch butterfly life cycle and migration phenomenon.  People can bring their own picnic, beverages, and chairs,

The festival is free to the public. In addition to Clayton County CAN, this family event is being sponsored  by local businesses, individual supporters, and donations received the day of the event. Any proceeds generated beyond the cost of the festival will go toward a variety of future educational events and locally based conservation programs hosted by Clayton County CAN..  “We want both residents and visitors to discover the unique outdoor treasures of the county, to understand how these resources function, and to learn what each of us can do to promote simple  land stewardship practices to protect these resources and enhance our county,” Gary said.  In one way or another we all have a connection to the land and the species we share it with.  This festival will highlight these connections as part of a fun community celebration.

Gary Siegwarth, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, contributed to this article.

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