MONTVILLE, NJ - Even though summer is over, the same kind of seasonal fun continued at the Pyramid Mountain National Historic Area in Montville. Even with the threat of rain, hundreds of kids and their parents came to this area for the annual Butterfly Bonanza last  month.

Usually at Pyramid Mountain, families, scout troops and nature lovers can go on hikes through the woods and learn many things about local wildlife. On Saturday, Sept. 14, children and parents learned the importance of insects and their contribution to the environment.

The Butterfly Bonanza is a community event put together by the staff at Pyramid Mountain to teach the public about the importance of maintaining their local wildlife. They are taught how insects, like butterflies, and other animals, such as birds and even bats, act as pollinators for certain native flowers.

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 “The excitement here is wonderful,” said Jenny Gaus-Myers, manager of education and interpretive programming at Pyramid Mountain. “The Butterfly Bonanza is always a great educational event. No matter what age you are, you always get something out of it. And there’s a lot of monarch caterpillars and cocoons this year!”

The Butterfly Bonanza has been held for about five years. It was first known as the Monarch Butterfly Festival until it was decided by Pyramid staff to include all kinds of insect and wildlife. Almost every year, new natural pollinators, aside from butterflies, are added to the program.

This year’s Butterfly Bonanza featured a variety of attractions and games, which included face painting, live folk music, arts n’ crafts, garden tours, the Pyramid Mountain’s nature museum, plant and flower sales, and bug stations where kids got to see and learn about (and even hold) millipedes, hissing cockroaches, stick bugs, and blue death-feigning beetles.

“The Butterfly Bonanza is wonderful,” said Kinnelon resident Karen Selby, who attended with her four-year-old daughter Felicia. “There’s just so many exhibits and activities for the kids to have fun and learn about nature.”

And kids like Selby’s four-year-old daughter Felicia were indeed having a great time. Felicia herself was dressed up as a purple butterfly.

“I like seeing the butterflies and the cocoons,” said Felicia.

Some visitors got to take home native state plants like golden stars, woodland poppies, bugbanes, great blue bobella, golden ragwort, heart-leaf asters, blue-mists and golden rods. There was even a small garden, containing violets, golden rods and alexanders, New England asters and cone flowers, which Pyramid Mountain staff maintained chiefly for butterflies and their larva. Visitors could stroll through the garden and discover the kinds of creatures these plants attracted, even a few ladybugs, a few cicadas and surprisingly a few newts.

There were display tables for invited organizations such as the Morris County Mosquito Commission, and the Native Plants Society of New Jersey. Gooserock Farms, from Boonton, also had a table and sold homemade honey, beeswax soap and honey spice lotions. The company's owner, Landi Simone, even showed kids a small starter colony that she brought along and how bees make their homes.

But the biggest highlight of the Butterfly Bonanza was its Pollinators Parade. When this began, kids and parents dressed up as butterflies and insects, birds, bats, and other nature pollinators and marched around the festival’s area, singing about the environment and pollination. Music for the parade was provided by Rockaway Township folk singer and storyteller Ken J. Galipeau.

“Pollination,” sang Galipeau with the children as they marched around the facility to his music. “We love pollination! Pollination, helps the plants to grow!”

And the kids and parents were happy to enjoy the outdoors a little longer before the climate gets colder and colder.

“I’ll come next year again,” said five-year-old Vita Venezia, from Towaco. “I love getting my face painted and I get to learn about butterflies and the outside woods.”

Vita’s mother Melissa was happy to see her child enjoy the Butterfly Bonanza for the first time.

“I think the Butterfly Bonanza is extremely informative and fun to learn for kids," Melissa said. "All the events that Pyramid Mountain has put on have been wonderful since we’ve first moved here.”

For more information on the Pyramid Mountain National Historic Area and other natural parks of Morris County, visit its webpage at http://morrisparks.net/.

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