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Jr. Miss Salt River Ki Ana Reina smiles when a butterfly lands on her finger during the Butterfly Wonderland opening.

A Grand Opening for Butterfly Wonderland

By Richi Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

Butterfly Wonderland, the indoor butterfly pavilion located on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, held its grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 25. Community members, landowners and families of Community staff participated in the grand-opening festivities.

Butterfly Wonderland, located at 9500 E. Via de Ventura, is part of the Talking Stick Entertainment District and is the first phase of a 500,000-square-foot entertainment destination north of Talking Stick Resort called OdySea in the Desert. In the future, the property will add an OdySea aquarium, an IMAX theater, a Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, MagiQuest, Arizona Experience, and retail shopping and dining.

The morning started off with a performance by Yellow Bird dancers and a continental breakfast with fruit cut into shapes of butterflies.

“I want to thank everyone that is here today to celebrate this wonderful gift to the Community,” said Mike Fox, director of Butterfly Wonderland. “There are so many unique dimensions of this project that have not occurred yet on Native land in North America.

“Significant [thought was put into] building [a] facility that would represent the Salt River Indian Community. [For example], the wave design and colors that are on the building represent the Community,” said Fox.

After the ribbon-cutting, everyone was invited into the 3D Theater and asked to put on 3D glasses to watch “Flight of the Butterflies,” an introductory film about the life of butterflies. This will be the first stop for all visitors to Butterfly Wonderland.

Next on the tour was the Chrysalis Laboratory, followed by The Conservatory. This is the 10,000-square-foot glass-enclosed atrium that houses a rainforest environment in which thousands of butterflies fly freely, lighting on the lush greenery and on the visitors. It is the largest butterfly pavilion in America.

The butterflies here come in all shapes, sizes and colors and are native to rainforest regions around the world. Among the 40 different species of butterflies that will be released into the atrium throughout upcoming weeks are the blue morpho butterfly from South America, which is bright blue in color with a wingspan that can reach 3 to 8 inches. Some of these were released into their new home in the atrium that morning. Also on display was the Atlas moth, which also comes from the rainforest. While technically not a butterfly, it bears a close resemblance to one. The atlas is the largest moth in the world and can be recognized by the large spots on its front and back wings that resemble eyes.

Other exhibits at Butterfly World right now are the Live Ant Colony, the Honeybee Extravaganza and Rivers of the Amazon: Aquatic Life.

“The whole experience was good. I really enjoyed it, and so did the kids,” said SRPMIC landowner Antonio Howard.

“It was a very nice experience,” said Rebecca Leonard. “The butterflies would just fly up to you and land on your shoulder or head. This one lady inside of the building walked up to me and said that I had a good spirit, [and] that is why it landed on me. It really made my day and made me feel good about myself. I honestly didn’t think [the Butterfly Wonderland project] would come out this beautiful.”

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