Wings in the Park to celebrate 20th anniversary of State College butterfly garden

Beth Maass works in the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden at Tom Tudek Memorial Park in 2014 to prepare for the Wings in the Park event.
Beth Maass works in the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden at Tom Tudek Memorial Park in 2014 to prepare for the Wings in the Park event. Centre Daily Times, file

Wings in the Park, an annual celebration of animal and plant life, will mark the 20th anniversary of the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden in Tom Tudek Memorial Park on July 23. Hosted by the Penn State Master Gardeners program, the event will also serve to celebrate the memory of “Butterfly Bob” Snetsinger, who founded the garden.

“This in an opportunity for people of all ages to explore, to discover, to learn and to have fun,” said Pam Ford, who is the educational outreach coordinator for the butterfly garden project.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. on July 23 with the pollinator parade, where guests will be encouraged to dress as their favorite pollinator. Following the parade, the Shaver’s Creek Raptor program will hold a talk for visitors to learn more about the relationship between caterpillars, moths and butterflies, to birds of prey, such as the American kestrel and the Eastern Screech owl. The event will also hold a scavenger hunt, a monarch maze obstacle course and several hands-on stations for visitors to learn more about birds and insects native to Pennsylvania.

“A lot of people assume that the title has to do with the creatures of the habitat, but it also references that Bob (Snetsinger) took us under his wing, and we’re very grateful for that — and that he gave us wings to carry on his mission,” Ford said.

For Ford, commemorating the memory of Snetsinger will be a special occasion as she began her career in the Master Gardener program under the mentorship of Snetsinger as an intern 10 years ago. Back then, she would follow Snetsinger taking notes and learning more about the butterfly garden.

“The point of this celebration is to not only share the the importance of these insects, but for people to make the connection of how important they are,” said Douglas Ford, community coordinator for the Snetsinger garden.

The 20th anniversary event will celebrate the life of Snetsinger with a monarch butterfly release scheduled for noon Saturday. According to Douglas Ford, monarch butterflies will not only be able to thrive after release, but will also return next year after their long and arduous migration to Mexico.

Attendees will also receive a complementary plant from more than 10 species native to Pennsylvania. According to a release, the giveaway is the garden’s way of passing on Snetsinger’s legacy of environmental stewardship to the broader community.

Wings at the Park event partners include the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, Discovery Space, Millbrook Marsh Nature Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, to name a few.

Snetsinger, a native of Diamond Lake, Ill., began working on the butterfly garden at Tudek Park in 1996. Snetsinger graduated from University of Illinois in 1960 and taught at Penn State from 1961 until 1999. He passed away in April 2016, after a battle with cancer.