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Butterfly Beach Bash

insectSANTA CRUZ > 26th Annual Migration Festival celebrates the journey of monarchs and other creatures

One of Santa Cruz’s most beloved winter residents—the monarch butterfly—is bidding farewell to its seaside home in search of greener pastures. Each year, from October to February, about 100,000 monarchs nestle in eucalyptus trees at Natural Bridges. By the first week of March, they have moved on to sources of milkweed, which serves as their food source and breeding ground during the spring and summer.

Each year, Natural Bridges State Beach celebrates the monarch’s journey with their annual Migration Festival. This year’s festival will be held this Saturday, Feb. 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival is used to draw attention to conservation efforts for a number of migratory animals, including gray whales, elephant seals, pelicans and the California newt, which makes a journey of less than a mile each year.

“The theme is to celebrate the migratory species that pass through Monterey Bay, as well as stress the importance of habitat protection,” says Chris Lynch, a representative for Natural Bridges. “Natural Bridges is both a sanctuary and a rest stop for a lot of these migratory species.”

Saturday’s festival will feature educational activities for children in attendance. More than 15 organizations will set up information booths and interactive activities. Representatives will be on hand to give presentations about different creatures, like bats and frogs. There will games, guided tours, arts and crafts projects, skits and plenty of other activity stations to keep the kids entertained.

For the adults in the crowd, a number of guest speakers will be present to speak about the animals and other conservation topics. The 5M’s Band (5M’s stands for Mostly Mediocre Music Monarch Mariposas) will also perform their peculiar brand of nature-inspired music, entertaining patrons with songs played to the tune of classic hits, but with a decidedly monarch-friendly twist.

Saturday’s event is free, but a day use parking pass is available for $10. Patrons can also purchase a picnic lunch at the festival, with proceeds benefitting education programs at the park. Of course, there will also be the traditional “habitat cake,” with complimentary slices available to anyone who needs to satisfy their sweet tooth.

For more information about the Migration Festival, visit parks.ca.gov or call 423-4609.

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