Despite the increasing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic putting a damper on attendance, the 12th Annual Take 2 Butterfly Festival hosted by the Oak Grove Tourism and Convention Commission came back after a yearlong hiatus as a success.

If the festival had been hosted last year, it would have marked the festival’s 12th year in a row, but due to the pandemic, the festival had to be postponed.

With that in mind, Oak Grove Tourism previously announced that this year’s Butterfly Festival would be dubbed the “Take 2 Butterfly Fest.”

The festival took place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the War Memorial Walking Trail, 101 Walter Garrett Lane in Oak Grove.

The park was filled Saturday with loads of families eager to take part in the festival’s activities, even creating lines at several booths and crowding around the main stage to catch an adrenaline-filled performance.

This year’s stage show was Dominguez Attractions featuring the “Globe of Death,” which was a fast, death-defying circus and carnival performance in which motorcycle riders drove around a giant sphere.

Dominguez Attractions’ performance also included a dog show where canines performed tricks along with their trainers. Hundreds of families gathered around the stage to catch the show.

The festival once again featured its zip-line by Southern Zip-Line Company, which proved to be a popular attraction again this year.

The festival also featured food trucks and tents on site to provide meals and snacks throughout the event and keep the children hydrated with a variety of drinks.

The Butterfly House was also another popular booth featured at the fest, allowing people to walk around and observe butterflies, caterpillars and live cocoons.

A new activity brought into the event this year was the opportunity for children to see and get in a U.S. Army Humvee and take photos with an Army soldier. Several families seized the opportunity to have their child sit in the turret seat of a Humvee and pose for photos with the soldiers.

Just before the main event of the festival, Oak Grove Tourism Executive Director Traci Cunningham took an opportunity to do something that she and the Tourism Commission felt was important and entirely separate from the event.

The commission sat out 13 chairs, each with a rose laid on its seat to honor the 13 soldiers that had recently fallen as the U.S. Military pulled out of Afghanistan.

As Cunningham began to announce the butterfly release, she asked the crowd to take a moment of silence to honor the fallen soldiers. The crowd stood almost completely silent with their heads bowed.

The fest then culminated Saturday afternoon with its main event and namesake: the butterfly release of around 1,600 butterflies.

The release took place at the end of the festival with the release of the butterflies into the air as they begin their migration down to Mexico for the winter.

Children and their family cheered and awed as hundreds of butterflies flew around them and even landed on them.

Cunningham shared with the New Era that the festival saw around 5,000 attendees this year, and while the attendance was down from the previous Butterfly Fest in 2019, she was pleased with the outcome.

“I think it went really really well,” Cunningham said. “Of course, the attendance was down a little bit, but we had about 5,000 people there, and it’s better than I thought it was going to be with everything that was going on. But, everybody seemed to have a really great time, and I think it was a huge success.”

Cunningham continued to share that with the recently increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases surging again, she knew that the attendance this year would be down, but despite that, she felt more people attended than what she expected.

The last Butterfly Fest in 2019 had seen around 10,000 people, Cunningham estimated, but this year, with the pandemic circumstances, she wanted everyone to feel safe and was pleased with the overall outcome of the event.

“I knew that (the attendance) was probably going to be (lower) and some people were not going to feel comfortable,” Cunningham said. “We saw people in masks in the attendance and of course, we put sanitizers all around the park. We tried our best to make people feel safe and be safe as much as possible.

“All in all, it was good, and I’m very pleased with everything. As I said, I didn’t expect as many (as the last fest), but I’m glad we got the 5,000 that we got.”

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