Butterflies, Maple Syrup & More

The recent blasts of wintry weather have reminded us we’re still in winter on the calendar, but now that we’re into March, we can start to think of spring. In Midland, that means butterflies, maple syrup, and more.

Butterflies in Bloom returns to Dow Gardens for the first time since 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. “It brightens up a winter day,” says Elly Maxwell, Dow Gardens entomologist. She adds, “Butterflies in Bloom is a visitors’ experience where they come into the conservatory that houses tropical plants and butterflies from all over the world in a free flying display.” 
Butterflies in Bloom debuted at Dow Gardens in 1998.
The exhibit opens on Friday, March 3 and continues through Sunday, April 16.  Admission to Dow Gardens requires either an annual pass or a day pass. An annual pass costs $20. A day pass is $10 for adults, $2 for students, children ages 5 and under are free. For Butterflies in Bloom, there’s no extra charge, but visitors need to reserve a specific time to see the exhibit.  All of this can be done through Dow Gardens website. Maxwell says, “We pace our visitors by having timed ticket slots so we can have the people spread out over the entire day, not just the peak time of day.” Maxwell notes Dow Gardens is open for spring break in late March so she encourages visitors to reserve times as soon as possible.  Starting on March 17, Dow Gardens will stay open later, until 7:30pm on Fridays, for what Maxwell calls, “romantic date nights.”
Dow Gardens has two viewing windows in the conservatory to see the chrysalis.
Butterflies in Bloom debuted at Dow Gardens in 1998. Maxwell says, “When this was started…the butterflies came from the southern United States, butterflies that were native there. In 2009, we added butterflies from Costa Rica, in 2012, Africa and Asia, and, in 2019, we added Ecuador, so that’s a total of four continents and one hundred plus species of butterflies.”  Maxwell joined Dow Gardens in 2006, “I’m responsible for anything related to insects, butterflies in the spring, pollinators, beekeeping, pest control, educating, and inspiring visitors to appreciate insects.”  

Visitors will be able to see the butterflies emerge from the chrysalis in the conservatory which was renovated, partly to comply with guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Maxwell says, “Now we have a state of the art pinning facility for the chrysalis and two viewing windows, so visitors can watch the chrysalis mature and the butterflies emerge.” She adds it usually takes a week or two for a butterfly to emerge but sometimes it can happen a day after it arrives at Dow Gardens. It just depends on when the farmer sends them to Dow Gardens. Maxwell says, ”Some species can take longer, in general, smaller species mature quicker than larger ones.” 

"They're fragile. We never touch their wings or grasp them."
After a butterfly gets its wings, it can fly around the conservatory. It might land on a visitor. Maxwell says, “Butterflies see warm colors, red, yellow, and orange. You’re more likely to have a butterfly land on you if you look like a flower, it’s a wonderful opportunity.” Trained volunteers and staff can gently place a butterfly on a visitor’s fingers but Maxwell emphasizes, “They’re fragile. We never touch their wings or grasp them.”

Dow Gardens is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 10am-4pm, closed on Mondays. On  weekends during the exhibit, the barn will be open with activities and crafts. Dow Gardens is located on Eastman Avenue, near West Saint Andrews Road in Midland.

Maple Syrup Day

Visitors to the Chippewa Nature Center (CNC) can get a taste of spring on Maple Syrup Day, Saturday, March 18. ‘It’s the first sign of spring, the syruping season at the nature center,“ says Michelle Fournier, the school and public program director for the CNC. She adds, “It’s intended to be an event for all ages, all in celebration of maple syrup.”
Maple Syrup Day takes place Sat, March 18, at the Chippewa Nature Center.
The event takes place from 10am-4pm.  It features activities staged across the 15-hundred acre property. One of the featured activities is the pancake meal held in the visitors center from 9am-2pm. The meal includes unlimited pancakes, sausage, applesauce, milk, and coffee. 

The cost to attend Maple Syrup Day is $5 for adults who are not members of the CNC. It’s free for children, ages 17 and under. For the pancake meal, the cost is $9 for ages 13 and up, $6 for ages 3-12, and it’s free for children under 3. CNC members receive a 20% discount.  Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased on the CNC’s website.

Fournier says, “Some visitors just come for the meal and some come to learn more about the process. They go to the Sugar House to see syrup being made. Staff and volunteers will be there, sharing how to identify a maple tree, how to tap the tree, collect the sap, and then boil the sap to make maple syrup.” 

A pancake meal is one of the highlights of Maple Syrup Day at the CNC.
At the Homestead Farm, maple syrup taffy is made. That process involves heating the sap just above the temperature for making syrup and then pouring it over ice. They also have cotton candy samples that use maple sugar. Maple Syrup Day also includes a puppet show, story times, crafts, and games. The event was first held in 1976. Attendance is usually around a thousand but varies depending on the weather. 

If you can’t make Maple Syrup Day, the CNC offers “An Afternoon at the Sugar House” on Saturdays and Sundays through March from 1-4pm. It’s free. The CNC is located about four miles southwest of downtown Midland.

Nature Day Camp

Another big activity for the Chippewa Nature Center in March is registration for the Nature Day Camps, held during the summer. Registration opens online at 9:00am on Tuesday, March 7.  Go to the CNC’s website to see the summer camp brochure which lists camps with descriptions. Fournier says, “Spots do fill fast. Early registration is recommended.” 

The camps are held for children, ages 3-17. They start with half-day adventures for younger children up to overnight and backpacking excursions for older children.

Banff Film Festival

In April, the Chippewa Nature Center presents the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, on Friday & Saturday, the 14th and 15th, at 7:00pm in the Bullock Creek High School auditorium. The films are selected from the Banff Film Festival to go on tour around the world. A list is available online
The film festival will be held at the Bullock Creek High School auditoirum.
Fournier says, “The films usually feature outdoor action, adventure…highlighting mountain biking, kayaking, all sorts of crazy things.” She adds, “We are the only site in our state that does two nights of films, with different films each night.” Tickets are $18, with a 20% discount for CNC members. They can be purchased on the CNC website. 

Legally Blonde

The Midland Center for the Arts is focusing attention on a show coming to Midland at the end of March, “Legally Blonde-The Musical.”  There will be three performances, Fri, March 31 at 7:30pm and Sat, April 1 at 1:00pm & 7:30pm. 
"Legally Blonde" will be performed at the MCFTA, March 31 & April 1.
The national touring production tells the story of  Elle Woods. The center’s news release states the show, which is based on the movie,  is “ The ultimate Broadway tribute to girl power, Legally Blonde will take you from the UCLA sorority house to the Harvard halls of justice with its coming-of-age story.”

Tickets are on sale starting at $55. They can be purchased online or by visiting the Center’s box office at 1801 W. St. Andrews Road in Midland. You can also call 989-631-5930.

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Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."