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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux
Rancho Mission Viejo residents usually get to adopt a baby caterpillar and oversee its eventual transformation into a butterfly before releasing the reborn creature, as part of a regular community tradition.
The event did not happen last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returned this year for a third annual release—on June 19, 2021, to be specific. As much as the butterfly release is about caterpillars growing and spreading their wings, the recent event can be seen as the local neighborhood springing back to life from the pandemic.
“It’s something to do, to give people a purpose,” said resident Peter Dang, who organized the event with his partner, Roy Fenn. “People hang out. They bought food at the food truck.”
Residents raise the caterpillars in a container with food before setting them free. This year, due to potential concerns over crowd proximities, the butterflies were released in special canopies that accommodated individual RMV families. The butterflies were gathered beforehand and released through the canopy zippers, along with ladybugs.
The event is additionally intended to educate children and families about the ecosystem, Dang said. More than 400 families attended the celebration, which included a DJ and farming representative to answer questions residents may have had about the outdoors.
Safety was a top priority while planning the event. Organizers worked with RMV management heading into the event and have also partnered with management for other safe events, including for Easter, Dang said.
The response and participation in the event were overwhelming, Dang said. Neighbors got to meet each other in person after building online connections during the pandemic.
Organizers would definitely like to hold the event next year if they can, Dang said.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.