Building Up the Monarch at Powell Gardens' 2015 Festival of Butterflies

Visitors to Powell Gardens’ 19th annual Festival of Butterflies will learn how to support the iconic monarch as they experience hundreds of fluttering butterflies at Kansas City’s botanical garden. The festival, which runs July 31-Aug. 2 and Aug. 7-9, includes indoor and outdoor exhibits of both exotic and native butterflies, local art, educational activities and the Nature Connects 2 LEGO® sculpture exhibit.

The plight of the monarch butterfly, which has seen decreasing populations in recent years, has gained attention in 2015. Powell Gardens and other public gardens nationwide have joined the Million Pollinator Gardens Challenge to encourage plantings of flowering plants and trees that will help improve the health and numbers of monarchs and other pollinators. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds and bats.

Powell Gardens will sell milkweed plants—the only host plant for monarch butterflies—throughout the festival to help visitors contribute to the Million Pollinator Gardens goal. Gardens of all sizes—from window boxes to entire landscapes—can be registered for the challenge at Visitors also can learn about monarch conservation and gardening for butterflies at exhibits by Monarch Watch, a Kansas University-based research group, and Master Gardeners.

 Indoor Butterfly Conservatory

Powell Gardens’ indoor conservatory becomes a tropical butterfly house during the festival. Here visitors encounter exotic species ranging from the world's largest moth, the Atlas, to the magical Blue Morpho of Costa Rica and other intriguing butterflies such as the Costa Rica Clearwing with see-through wings.

 Building Up the Monarchs: Art by Two Tone Press

Two Tone Press, a Kansas City-based letterpress studio, designed new art for the 2015 festival using a unique LEGO brick printing technique to tie in with the Nature Connects LEGO sculpture exhibit. The monarch butterfly motif illustrates the movement to support monarchs and is featured on T-shirts available for sale during the festival. Two Tone Press is owned by sisters Angie and Michelle Dreher, who will be on hand to share more of their LEGO-based prints and other art on Aug. 1-2.

 Where the Magic Begins: All About Caterpillars

Visitors get a firsthand look at the entire life cycle of butterflies with several caterpillar-related activities. Indoors, the 'Cat' Room has a large display of live caterpillars staffed by local butterfly enthusiasts. A Caterpillar Petting Zoo in the Master Gardeners' exhibit outdoors offers children a chance to get hands-on. And a Caterpillar Scavenger Hunt will help visitors connect caterpillars with the host plants they need to survive.

Fun for Kids

Children's activities include story time with "Fancy Nancy" at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., plus a costume parade complete with a Chinese dragon-style caterpillar float at 11 a.m. each festival day. Outdoors, children can catch and release butterflies, hunt for caterpillars and make a craft. Indoor activities include “paint a pot” ($4), face painting ($3 to $5), butterfly wings ($3) and caterpillar headbands (free). Bring swimwear for splashing in the Fountain Garden, which is open throughout the festival.

 Evening Butterfly  Events

Two evening events provide a more intimate way to experience the festival and the beauty of the gardens in twilight.

 Family Night: An Evening with the Butterflies, 7-9 p.m. August 1

This event allows families to explore the "night life" at Powell Gardens, with a guided experience in the butterfly conservatory to see the Owl butterflies and moths that are active in the evening. Nature experts posted around the gardens will help interpret all of the sights and sounds of the garden at twilight. Indoors, participants will participate in a community art project. Tickets also include one free serving of Tadley's home-made ice cream! Reservations are required: or call 816-697-2600 x209.

 An Evening Escape: Wine & Light Bites & Butterflies, 7-10 p.m. August 8

This event for ages 21 and older is a casual night of drinks, light bites and the chance to explore the exotic butterflies and moths that come to life in the evening hours. Tickets include one drink, light appetizers, a guided experience in the butterfly conservatory and access to the Gardens in the beauty of twilight. A cash bar will be available. Tickets are $30 or $25 for members. Reservations required: or call 816-697-2600 x209.