To truly understand the reason for the Fergus Falls Monarch Festival, “The

Butterfly Effect,” a documentary film by Fergus Falls resident Deb Wallwork, is one of

the key events.  “The Butterfly Effect” is premiering at 7:00pm at the Center for the Arts

Friday August 14. Admission is free. It is hard to miss the ballooning publicity reflecting

community wide events celebrating interest in the monarch butterfly and establishing

more habitat.

The film opens with Teresa Jaskiewicz hunting for monarch caterpillars at Prairie

Wetland Learning Center. Jaskiewicz, an educator at Prairie Wetland Learning Center,

is one of the people featured in the film. For more than 30 years Jaskiewicz has

demonstrated her passionate commitment to understanding and protecting “pollinator

habitat” -that of native bees and butterflies.

In the winter of 2013 an alarm rose among biologists concerned with the decline in the

numbers of monarchs. At the Mexico sanctuary the overwintering populations dropped

precipitously. Wallwork, who has a cabin in Otter Tail County and had recently moved

into the Kaddatz Artist Lofts, immediately realized we could make a difference for the

monarch butterfly right here. She applied for and received a Legacy Grant through Lake

Region Arts Board to do a documentary film.  During her research, Wallwork became

aware of the Minneapolis Monarch Festival and concluded a similar Otter Tail County

festival could provide enhanced support for the goal of her film–to encourage people to

look up and around at the monarch population decline and understand what their role

could be in protecting it.

From the beginning Tere Mann, recruited by Wallwork to manage the festival, reports

good cooperation from Fergus Falls and area organizations and individuals.  Wallwork

and Mann asked the City of Fergus Falls to sponsor applying for a Legacy Grant for the

Fergus Falls Monarch Festival. The grant proposal was submitted to Lake Region Arts

Council and the Fergus Falls Monarch Festival was awarded only partial funding due to

the number of grants submitted. Serious planning began with first meetings and events

in the fall of 2014 and early 2015.

Strongest focus of festival activities will be August 13 to 15.  The festival planners

wanted to raise awareness of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center (PWLC) tagging

events. PWLC starts its annual tagging of monarch butterflies Saturday August 15 &

Monday August 17. The tagging tracks their migration to and from Mexico.  This will be

the 17th year of tagging monarchs at PWLC and Jaskiewicz reports that over the years

more than 50 tags from PWLC have been found on butterflies in Mexico.

In the film are individuals in the area who have joined the increasing awareness by

fostering monarch caterpillars. One individual is Renee Larson, retired second grade

teacher at Adams School, who has raised monarchs in her classroom and fostered a

butterfly garden at Adams. From the time of hatching, an inch long worm barely the

diameter of a pinhead munches away on an abundance of milkweed leaves until they

get to little finger size and attach themselves to form a chrysalis.  They emerge with soft

damp wings, the wings dry and the new monarch is ready to be released.  Many people

then look for another caterpillar for another cycle.  At one point Wallwork advised a

butterfly custodian to take her jar to work with her so as not to miss a critical stage.

Avid gardener Helen Johansen is a tireless monarch supporter, helping to arrange

garden tours and announcing, “I have monarch eggs!”  The Fergus Falls Fish and

Game club, owners and managers of One Mile Prairie, just east of Fergus Falls, made a

$500 contribution to the festival and recently received Monarch Way Station designation

for One Mile Prairie.  Don Del Greco, the Maplewood Park Manager, and Doug Wells,

retired wildlife manager, contributed expertise to the film and the festival.

There is a great amount of marginal land in Otter Tail County that is recognized and

protected as game habitat. Wallwork says it will take effort to also make existing land

into pollinator habitat, requiring a critical seed mix of prairie flowers. So lots of other

people–owners of small gardens–have taken an active interest and agreed to plant


When Wallwork answers, “Why this subject?’ for her film, it becomes clear this is a

personal essay.

Other activities supporting the film debut will be informational talks at the Fergus Falls

Public Library on Friday morning August 14, starting at 10 a.m and Saturday morning

starting at 9:00am. The film opens at A Center for the Arts Friday evening at 7 p.m. and

admission is free.  It will be shown again at the Fergus Falls Library on Saturday, Aug.

15 at noon.

Following the premiere of “The Butterfly Effect” at Center for the Arts on August 14th,

there will be a gathering at The Spot from 8:30 to 10 p.m. featuring local writers and

musicians. On the schedule to read their poetry and prose and provide music – Athena

Kildegaard, Luke Anderson, Kevin Zepper, Joanne Cress and Bob Johnson, to be

followed by an open mic for writers and musicians who wish to share and enhance the

Monarch themes of pollination, rebirth and transformation.

Additional information on festival events is available on the festival Facebook page,

Fergus Falls Monarch Festival, and on the website MonarchFestFF.com

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