Hurley Park celebrates 30th anniversary with butterfly release

Published 12:10 am Monday, August 14, 2017

By Jessica Coates

SALISBURY – Beneath a canopy of trees, just past Haden’s Gazebo, a group of approximately 100 people gathered at Hurley Park on Sunday to watch 50 monarch butterflies be released.

The butterflies were brought to the park by a High Point farm called All-A-Flutter, which does butterfly releases and educational shows all over the Southeast.

Nora Aker, one of the farm’s owners, was the presenter and educator for the Hurley Park event.

“Have you guys ever heard of monarch butterflies migrating?” she asked the audience, which was made up mostly of families with young children.

The children, some of whom had studied monarch butterflies in their school curriculum, yelled out, “Yes!”

“We’re mainly a field trip facility, but we also provide tours for people of all ages,” Aker said after the presentation, as she attracted individual butterflies for kids to hold using cotton pads soaked in sugar water. “We’ve actually become very popular in the senior community in the past few years as well.”

Because school tours are such a big part of their business — and because North Carolina’s second-grade curriculum focuses in part on the monarch butterfly — Aker said that the farm primarily breeds monarchs.

“Occasionally we’ll raise other species by request, if people want them at an event. But mainly monarchs is what we do,” she said. “We also want to educate about the monarch since they are hovering just above the endangered species list.”

She said that, in the past year, the farm has had visits from Atlanta, Tennessee and Virginia. But she said that most of their visitors come from North and South Carolina.

She also said that coming to events — like the Hurley Park anniversary celebration — is a great way for them to educate the public about butterflies.

From her spot at the head of the crowd during her presentation, next to a table that held containers with both the 50 monarch butterflies and a collection of caterpillars, Aker explained the difference between moths and butterflies, how to determine a butterfly’s gender and how a butterfly smells and hears.

“(Salisbury Parks and Recreation) reached out and they wanted to do … at first, just a presentation about the butterflies,” Aker said. “And then, a lot of the times, when we do presentations at parks, we also incorporate hand feeding and releasing the butterflies. So I actually suggested that additional touch, and they thought that was a fantastic idea.”

Daphne Beck, who has been in charge of Hurley Park for more than 28 years, was one of the Parks and Recreation employees involved with planning the event.

She also said that they chose to do the individual butterfly release, rather than releasing the butterflies all at once, so that the program would be more interactive.

“(We wanted) to get more people involved in the whole activity. To get the kids involved in it. Get a butterfly up close to them,” Beck said.

She said that the thing that she has loved most about working for Hurley Park is that something new is in bloom every day, “if you look for it.”

The butterfly release event was held as part of Hurley Park’s 30th anniversary celebration.

Contact Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.