Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 34

Fluttering
Fantasia
An indoor adventure with a mission reaching beyond Missouri's borders
by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

Bruce says Ernesto takes great pride in the livelihood and has taught the
families how to tend the various plants caterpillars need to lay eggs on and
tiny vial with its red-flower top holds a seemingly magical elixir which which plants they need to feed upon. He then teaches the families how to collect chrysalises, so Ernesto can in turn fill the weekly orders for buyers such as
draws the colorful beauties near.
"It's difficult to come into the aviary and not immediately relax," says Bruce and other butterfly facilities.
"We were so impressed with what Ernesto and the families were doing we
Bruce Herschend. "It's a consistent 75 or so degrees in here, there's
dulcimer music played quietly throughout the day as you walk around the path decided to up our purchase commitment to them annually," says Bruce. While
and there are all these winged wonders flying around. You could spend hours he hasn't been able to travel to all of their other supply farms, Bruce depends on
his sources to keep him apprised on how
in here."
funds are spent at each facility. Because
Bruce is the owner of The Butterfly Palhe and Brittney like what they hear and
ace and Rainforest Experience in Branson,
because of the quality chrysalises they're
where his passion for conservation and
being sent, Bruce says The Butterfly Palace
people work hand in hand. Open since
is happy to sow extra funds back into each
2006, the attraction went through several
farm, which in turn, allows them to grow.
leadership and employee changes, with
"Since partnering with us, Ernesto's been
Bruce stepping up as sole owner in 2013.
able to add 130 hectares (321 acres) to the
"I come from a family who realizes peofarm," says Brittney.
ple's expectations of entertainment has
While the butterflies are the main attracchanged over the decades," says Bruce,
tion for most who stop for a visit, guests
whose father, Jack, owns Silver Dollar
of all ages are surprised to learn there are
City and Herschend Family Entertainment
other adventures awaiting them. To help
Company. "Today, visitors of all ages want
foster a better understanding of the rainforan interactive experience on every level of
est and why protecting it is vital to The Butentertainment."
terfly Palace, there are activities such as the
Decreasing distance between guests and
Great Banyan Tree Adventure, the Emerald
butterflies was Bruce's first priority.
Forest Mirror Maze, as well as the Interac"One of the first things we did here when
tive Rainforest Science Center with more
I became owner was to work on a way to
than three dozen rainforest animals, such
get the butterflies closer to the people, and
as a blue-tongued skink and even razorthis is what Brittney and the team ended
Owner Bruce Herschend inspects a newly released New Guinea Birdwing. The Butterfly Palace
up with," Bruce says, holding up a vial with and Rainforest Experience in Branson has daily releases of butterflies the public can assist with. toothed piranhas. Short movies also are
free to view and help visitors understand
a little red flower on top. Suddenly, Lacewings and Zebra Mosaics appear from nearby orchids and trees, landing on the the importance of the rainforest to species, as well as the humans who live and
work in the rainforest, too.
nectar-filled vial.
Bruce says he often just walks through the aviary to watch guests' reactions
Bruce is quick to add that much of the creative success of the attraction is
or to offer to snap photos of them as butterflies land on the provided nectar
due to his committed team of employees, such as Butterfly
vial (or even the occasional nose or cheek).
Palace General Manager Brittney Smith, who has been there
"Sometimes you'll see someone gazing intently on a colorful butterfly
for years.
that's at rest on a flower or leaf and they'll just start quietly telling you
The 7,000-square-foot butterfly aviary, located in the dome
about something they've gone through in their life or something hard
of the building, houses anywhere from 1,700 to 2,000 butterflies
they're facing," says Bruce.
on a given week. Bruce says a 49-page USDA permit allows him to
"So we have a card for visitors that reads, 'Would you like to write
purchase the various species of Lepidoptera they showcase.
it down? And please check if you would like us to pray for you,' "
"That permit allows us to purchase up to 268 different species
Branson
he adds, choking up at the thought. "We have hundreds of them...
of butterflies if we choose to do so," says Bruce, a member of White
where people have lost a child, are facing cancer, or have lost a
River Valley Electric Cooperative. "About 67 of those species come
spouse. Many will write after they leave to share what their visit
to us from a Costa Rican butterfly farm, with the rest currently
meant to them, and we're touched by every letter."
coming from farms in Australia, Malaysia, Philippines and Africa."
That drives Bruce and his staff to offer a great experience for guests.
As owner, Bruce wanted to make sure the farmers they send money to for
"We get to inspire a child, help someone through a tough transition, and
butterfly chrysalises in Costa Rica was someone they would be proud of doing
business with. "I'd heard that Ernesto Rodriguez' farm was close to the coun- make a difference in the lives of people a world away through what we're doing,"
try's border. The Costa Rican government was getting nervous about the drug says Bruce. "It doesn't get much better than that."
trade possibly coming across and affecting the business," Bruce recalls. "So in
The Butterfly Palace and Rainforest Experience is located at 4106 W. Highway
2015, Brittney and I flew down to check things out for ourselves."
That initial visit has resulted in an even stronger bond between Ernesto's El 76 in Branson. For more information call 417-332-2231, or check out the webBosque Nuevo Butterfly Farm and The Butterfly Palace. Bruce was able to meet site at www.thebutterflypalace.com; on Facebook search for Butterfly Palace and
Rainforest Adventure. Mention this article to receive $2 off any admission.
Ernesto's staff of 20, which in turn, helps support 80 rainforest families.

A

34

RURAL MISSOURI | MARCH 2018


http://www.thebutterflypalace.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - March 2018

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