Monarchs on The Mountain a four-day event in 2021

Organizers plan around Covid, offer outdoors activities around Tulsa

A male monarch (not the black dot center back of the hindwing) pulls nectar from a Tithonia sunflower. (Kelly Bostian/KJBOutdoors photo)

For the CCOF

Monarchs on The Mountain organizers figured out how to offer more with less for the 2021 Tulsa-area festival by adding days and variety to what typically is a one-day shindig at Turkey Mountain Urban Wilderness.

A scaled-down Festival and Plant Sale take place in the usual time slot 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, but organizers added some educational and family work-and-learn opportunities, as well as an end of festivities talk and Q&A with experts, with the events starting Friday and wrapping up Monday evening.

“We’re kind of in the same boat as everyone with Covid and we hope that next year we can do the things we had to cut from this year, but we expanded to four days and the goal as always is that after these days people will have more ideas and resources about what they always need, which is to know who do you talk to and where to you get your questions answered,” said Marci Hawkins, event chair and the education and conservation director for Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition.

Saturday’s venue will have information booths and participating groups on-site, plenty of space to roam, and several vendors selling milkweeds and other plants pollinators need, she said.

With Sustainable Tulsa taking the lead, nearly 20 different agencies and non-profit groups sponsor the weekend, and each shares information with the public about what they do for pollinators and the start of the show, the monarch butterfly.

With a spike in Covid cases organizers tried to make everything safe as possible and use outdoor venues, she said.

“People will be wearing masks and distancing, but if people feel they can’t do it safely no one’s feelings will be hurt,” she said. “We will see you next year!”

Friday through Monday participants are encouraged to take a “Mobile Migration” in the spirit of migrating monarchs by visiting any one, several of, or all of six designated pollinator plots, located across Tulsa from Oxley Nature Center at the north end to the Jenks High School Flycatcher Trail at the south.

Information will be posted about monarch migrations and visitors can learn about special features of the different gardens, she said.

“They can do this however they want, bike, walk, drive, and it’s something you can do as a family and do safely,” she said. “We want to encourage people to see all these different gardens, learn about these great public spaces, and learn more about gardening.”

Visitors can win prizes, too by posting selfies of themselves with the garden’s migration poster on the Facebook event page. Sunday evening winners will be drawn to receive either a Monarchs on the Mountain t-shirt or tote.

Sunday will be a gardening day event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for individuals or families who want to get down and dirty and learn a little while they’re at it. Several pollinator plots at venues around town could use a helping hand and people can sign up to spend a half-hour here or half-hour there doing some hands-on work—and maybe even learning a little while they’re at it.

Each of several sites has about $100 worth of plants that need to be set in the ground. Organizers will have tools and masks and any other items people need to do the job, she said.

“I was almost surprised last year how so many groups really got in there and went to work. They worked hard,” Hawkins said. “It was wonderful to see, everyone from moms and dads with little kids to college-age groups of friends… It’s a great time to give people a chance to get involved and feel ownership in these public places,” she said.

Monday evening the group hosts a Zoom call with three experts to wrap up the weekend. After presentations, the speakers will have a Q&A session. The pressure is on for speakers at Monarchs on The Mountain these days, she said.

“What I’ve seen, and others talk about this, a few years ago the general public didn’t know that much about monarchs and pollinators and now they’re discussing which diseases a caterpillar might have. It’s been interesting to watch as people become more interested and educated… And it means we’ve had to up our game on presenters too, to reach people who need the basics and people who have advanced questions as well.”

Kelly Bostian is an independent journalist writing for The Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to education and outreach on conservation issues facing Oklahomans. To learn more about what we do and to support Kelly’s work, see the About the CCOF page.

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