Butterfly Festival Offers Take-Home Activity Bags to Celebrate Pollinators

July 9, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. – Organizers of the Little Wings on the Prairie Butterfly Festival say the annual pollinator celebration at Oahe Downstream will still take place on July 18, but this year in the form of take-home bags that encourage self-led activities.

“Pollinators are everywhere; they’re all around us,” says Charlene Bessken, event organizer and biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We can observe, learn about and help them thrive, whether we’re in the parks or in our own backyard. This year’s event will give families the tools to do that on their own.”

Instead of interactive booths, visitors to the butterfly garden at Oahe Downstream on July 18 from 9-11 a.m. CT will be able to take home a butterfly festival backpack for each child present. Backpacks include a variety of activity sheets, crafts and toys to help educate about pollinators, from bug jars to butterfly houses. In addition, each family group will receive a garden kit, which includes a packet of perennial seeds, booklets on starting your own butterfly garden, how to build a solitary bee nest, and a self-guided tour brochure of the Oahe Butterfly Garden. 

Bessken says there will also be some activities families can take part in that morning at the park, including photo opportunities, interpretive signs and self-exploration. Children are encouraged to dress up in outfits to honor their favorite pollinator for the virtual pollinator parade on Oahe Downstream’s Facebook page. A few volunteers will be available to answer questions, and guests can visit the garden while maintaining appropriate distance from others.
“The park has plenty of room for explorers,” Bessken said. “While you’re here, find your own space and use some of the supplies in the backpack to celebrate pollinators and spend some time in nature. Parents, we’d suggest you bring some crayons along, so the kids can start right away.”

The backpacks and garden kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. There is no charge for the materials, but all vehicles entering the park to participate must have a park entrance license. Visitors are advised to purchase their annual or daily license online at before they arrive.

Materials in the backpacks and garden kits are supplied by the many partners that put on the festival each year, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; South Dakota, Game, Fish and Parks; SDSU Extension; Discovery Center; Prairie Potters Master Gardeners; Pheasants Forever; US Forest Service; Black Hills Parks and Forests Association; and Sam Missal (beekeeper). 

The backpack pick-up will take place near the entrance of Oahe Downstream Recreation Area, which is located five miles north of Fort Pierre off SD Highway 1806. The Oahe Butterfly Garden remains open to visitors during daylight hours every day. The park asks that you observe social distancing; if the garden is busy, come back another time.

For families wanting to make a weekend out of it, several campsites are still available. Reservations can be made online at or by calling 1.800.710.2267.


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