Frankfort Square will be aflutter Saturday with the excitement of butterflies.

Columbus Community Hospital will be releasing butterflies at 10:30 Saturday morning as part of its 34th annual Extravaganza event. It will also feature performances by Lynette’s Dance Studio and Karissa Gleeson, who works as a teenage volunteer at the hospital. However, the main attraction is the butterflies; fragile, beautiful and heartwarming.

The release of butterflies began six years ago when officials at CCH wanted to find ways to change up the Extravaganza ceremony. Many of them had seen butterfly releases in other towns and wanted to find a way to bring that to Columbus.

“Some of them had experienced butterfly releases somewhere else in the United States, and they thought, ‘Well, we think we can do that,’” said Mary Powers, chairwoman of the Butterfly Release and Extravaganza.

Thus, the Butterfly Release was born. People can purchase butterflies from the hospital, which will pay tribute to someone who made a significant impact on their lives. A “Butterfly Wall” will also be on display, which will showcase the people for whom the release is dedicated to.

“It can be (dedicated to) anything,” Powers said. “It can be donated to people who have passed away, it isn’t even necessarily someone that is related to them. It’s to peaceful things, it’s loving (and) happy.”

The butterflies themselves are purchased months in advance and are grown, from caterpillar to bloom at a farm in Florida. The warm weather suits the butterflies well and prepares them for the heat of summer in Nebraska. Eventually, they travel from Florida in a cooled truck before arriving in Nebraska to be warmed.

Fortunately, this weekend will have plenty of warm weather, with temperatures forecasted for the upper 90s on Saturday. It’s a far cry from what happened a year ago when cooler conditions made it a question as to whether or not the butterflies would be released.

“The warm weather that’s forecasted for this weekend, the butterflies are going to love it,” Powers said. “It was kind of chilly last year and we had a good event, but it should be quite good this year.”

People feel a variety of different emotions from the butterfly release. Powers is inspired by the many people who donate money for a butterfly, and she enjoys watching them be released in front of hundreds of awestruck people.

“It’s just inspirational to see all of the people, of all ages, enjoy being outside and experiencing the butterflies,” Powers said.

Angie Ramaekers, CCH’s director of volunteer and guest services, said she focuses on different parts of the ceremony every year. One year, she looked at a singular butterfly within hundreds, trying to ascertain its beauty. Another year, she looked at the sky the entirety of the release, seeing all of the butterflies flying overhead. She finds beauty in it all, a sign that this event makes an impact beyond just dollars and cents.

“Every year, I choose something different and every time, it’s something beautiful,” Ramaekers said. “It’s just different, every experience is. You can’t take it all in at one time. It’s really amazing how that happens.”

The hospital itself benefits from the event, as proceeds from the Butterfly Release and Extravaganza will be used to purchase new vestibulotherapy glasses for the Rehabilitation Services department. Giveaways and prize drawings will also be held and a quilt is being raffled off. Of course, it’s a butterfly quilt.

Ramaekers said that while the event goes for 30 minutes, people stay well beyond that just to get a glimpse of the butterflies and to enjoy the experience of life itself.

“People are allowed to stay and linger and enjoy the butterflies,” Ramaekers said. “There’s no requirement of the time frame people are required to stay or when they have to leave, but people tend to linger around. It’s usually 11:30 before people are starting to clear out of Frankfort Square. There’s something really beautiful about that interaction.”

Anyone wishing to take part in the Butterfly Release can purchase butterflies by completing an order form located at the Gift Shop or online at the hospital’s website. Butterflies are $15 for the first purchase and $10 for each additional butterfly. Both cash and check are accepted.

Volunteers are also selling raffle tickets for a beautiful, handmade butterfly quilt. Raffle tickets can be purchased in the CCH Gift Shop for $1 each or six tickets for $5.

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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