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Monarch Madness Festival Was Indeed Madness

Yesterday, I attended a unique festival hosted by the Bear Branch Nature Center/ Hashawha Environmental Center in Westminster, MD.

“The Monarch Madness Festival” celebrates the monarch butterflies’ migration to Mexico, and raises awareness about creating and maintaining natural habitats to support wildlife, including monarchs, which are now being considered for Endangered Species protection. The monarch butterfly population has decreased over 96% in the last few decades, due to the agricultural elimination of milkweed, the *only* plant which serves as a host for monarch eggs.

Monarch butterfly on zinnia flower

The Festival included fun family activities, nature trails, hay rides, a small selection of food and product vendors, and the highlight event ~ a monarch tag and release that was really popular with children.

The Carroll County Times website published a video of yesterday’s monarch release. Sadly, the site won’t allow me to embed the video on my blog.

Monarch Madness volunteers

Hayride at Bear Branch Nature Center

I had never been to Hashawha Environmental Center before, and I’d never heard of the Monarch Madness Festival until a month ago, when a customer at the Carroll County Farmer’s Market suggested that I apply for a vendor spot.

Monarch Madness Festival attendees

There were several farmer’s market attendees at this small festival, which ran for 4 hours and attracted approximately 500 people. I received a few sales and many compliments on my artwork. I also brought along a small selection of matted butterfly photos, which were taken in my cottage garden this summer.

Cat Art Booth at Monarch Madness Festival

It was a bit challenging trying to engage people who entered my booth, because some were drawn to the cat art, and others to the photography. I had difficulty discerning which images were catching their eye.

I would begin my standard introduction about being a cat artist, and explain how all the reproductions were made from my original paintings ~ and someone would cut me off with, “That’s a really pretty butterfly photo!”
Switching gears from “talking art” to “talking photography” isn’t as easy as I assumed it would be. ;)

The weather was beautiful but extremely windy. After a very humid and hot summer, and a week of rain, Sunday’s sunny skies, cool breeze, and autumn-like temperature was likely appreciated by everyone except the vendors! LOL

Flower plant stand at Monarch Madness festival

This unattended plant stand relied on “The Honor System” and donations.

Several people opted not to use tents, as the wind threatened to blow them away. The band’s tent folded inside-out (before the festivities began, thank goodness!), and the wind kept clearing items off tables.

Band playing at Monarch Madness Festival

Wind is the bane of my existence as a purveyor of paper products. Even with the majority of my items displayed in baskets, or clipped to my tent walls, the wind managed to send my bookmarks flying into the parking-spot adjacent to my booth ~ not once, not twice, but with every single gust!

Bookmarks falling on pavement

My friend Michelle, who accompanied me in order to watch the butterfly release, estimated that I chased after my bookmarks 75 times in one afternoon. I think that is an over-exaggeration… but only a slight one. ;)

Early on, we tried moving my bookmark display out of the wind’s path, but then it would change direction, as if in retaliation! Grrrr. Then I tied fishing line around the display, hoping it would act as a barrier, but it didn’t stop the bookmarks from being repeatedly blown off the rack.

I was ready to give up and pack the bookmarks away, forfeiting any sales, but the festival ended at 4pm… so I persevered.
Cat bookmarks on display rack

Next time I attend an outdoor festival, I will remember to pack extra baskets to display product. It might not be as visually appealing as my bookmark rack, where each piece can be seen and admired, but having my merchandise in baskets will save me the aggravation of continually picking them up off the ground!

Unless I can design a better idea in the meantime: maybe individual plastic pouches, similar to an over-the-door shoe organizer?

I also had to hold my table skirts down with clamps, as the wind kept flipping the fabric up over my products, in a less-than-sexy remake of Marilyn Monroe’s subway scene in Seven Year Itch.

I’ve encountered wind before at outdoor events, but never a wind as forceful and persistent as this wind was. It made me question my decision to participate in shows being held outside! LOL

Bear Branch Nature Center Hashawha

I loved the natural beauty of the Hashawha Environmental Center, and was tempted several times to wander off down a forest trail, leaving my booth at the mercy of the wind.

I would love to attend next year’s Monarch Madness Festival as a patron, not as a vendor. I am also planning to bring my family for a visit sometime soon, to experience everything the Nature Center has to offer!


My next show isn’t until October – the Apple Butter Festival in Berkeley Springs, WV (Oct 10th & 11th) – and in the meantime I have a lot of deadlines coming up! My 2016 Literary Cats calendar is currently 73% funded ~ thank you so much to everyone who has backed my project thus far! :)
Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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