A New Attraction at the Zoo: Butterfly Hollow

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Photo Courtesy of Sarah Jurkoic

At the Jacksonville Zoo, just past the Asian Bamboo Gardens at the river’s edge there is a winding path weaving around large painted mushrooms and colorful faerie circles. At the end of this path stands a white tent, unimposing and unimpressive at first glance. Once the unsuspecting visitor passes through the thick plastic strips that serve as doors to the tent however, he or she will feel pleasantly transported to a whimsical fantasy world filled with multitudes of butterflies and the incessant soft playing of songs that inspire a fairy tale atmosphere.

Butterfly Hollow opened at the zoo on March 9 and drew in crowds young and old. For two dollars a piece, after admission, visitors flocked to spend as long as they liked basking in the warm sunlight filtering through the screens of the tent. “Saria’s Song,” “Zelda’s Lullaby” and similar songs lend to the wonderfully childish and innocent feeling of the exhibit.

The first thing that strikes the visitor is the utter other-worldliness inside the tent. All around the exhibit is a lush and fresh meadow in bloom, designed to bring automatic smiles to the faces of those who enter.

The next thing one notices is the happy babbling brook that creates a constant merry tittering in the background of the already merry music.

The third striking element of the Butterfly Hollow is just how many butterflies are flapping around and above visitors heads and how many species are represented in the exhibit. There are butterflies of all sizes, shapes and colors. They seem to occupy every space they can. They flutter around the open air, teasing out of eager children’s fingertips. They rest on the ceiling, on the walls, on the plants and on the delightful sculptures that have been carefully designed and constructed for the Hollow.

The faerie-sized houses, over sized mushrooms and pretty flower sculptures are the fourth thing that catches the visitor’s eye. They pepper the ground, jumping out of the bushes and flowers with bright colors and whimsical faerie themes. Rising out of the ground to lend height to the atmosphere are large sculptures. A bottle tree particularly delighted visitors who spoke appreciatively to one another about the exhibit.

Butterfly Hollow is a sanctuary not just of butterflies but of the childlike wonder and joy that can, and usually does, go dormant if it isn’t lost completely in adults. As children run around the dirt paths hoping to entice a butterfly onto their hands, the adults look on breathing in the warm, fresh air and admiring the delicate beauty of the exhibit.

Parents bring their children, artists bring their cameras and every one brings their inner child and sense of wonder to the Hollow. It is difficult to not get caught up in the small haven that the zoo has manufactured. It presents a fantastical little world unto itself.

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