Giant butterfly sculptures added to Flagler Park garden

OKEECHOBEE — Nine butterfly sculptures were unveiled in downtown Flagler Park on Saturday, June 30, by Okeechobee Main Street and the Arts and Culture Alliance of Okeechobee.

The sculptures were placed in Flagler Park No. 6 (across from Jersey Mike’s), and mark the conclusion of the “Butterfly Sculpture in the Park” project that began in January to help bring awareness to the Hamrick Butterfly Garden as well as provide a free public work of art for the Okeechobee community.

The butterflies were painted and designed by local artists, Okeechobee High School students and residents at the Grand Oaks assisted living facility.

Arts and Culture Alliance Director Bridgette Waldau thanked everyone who helped put the project together at a ceremony before the unveiling.
“I have to thank Angie Griffin and Jonathan Holt at Main Street for keeping things together the past six months,” said Ms. Waldau. “Also the people at Grand Oaks and Adele Salas and her students at Okeechobee High School, as well as all the sponsors who donated time and money to make this possible.”

Randy Kelly, administrator at Grand Oaks, described the process of the high school students painting with residents at his facility.
“Seeing the residents paint butterflies twice a week has been absolutely amazing,” Mr. Kelly said. “Our residents had a great time interacting with the students as they painted. The students were very patient and made our residents feel at ease. It gives our residents a sense of accomplishment and dignity to be included in such a special project for our town.”

Grand Oaks residents George Corbin, Sam Smith, Jean Wallace, Ruth Durham and Doris Minton all contributed to the butterfly sculpture project.
Okeechobee High School students Chelsea Burgos and Rodolfo Juarez IV worked with the Grand Oaks residents and designed two of the butterfly sculptures.

Okeechobee County Commissioner Terry Burroughs (left) embraces Arts and Culture Alliance Director Bridgette Waldau (right) at the unveiling of the butterfly sculptures in Flagler Park on June 30.

The other butterflies were designed by Okeechobee artists Dana Vines, Kathy Scott, Diane Hall, Fawn Barr, Angie Griffin and Ms. Waldau.
Mill Iron Metalworks provided the metal templates for the butterfly sculptures.

The unveiling was attended by many Okeechobee government officials, including Mayor Dowling Watford, County Commissioners Bryant Culpepper,
Terry Burroughs and David Hazellief, City Councilman Noel Chandler and Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen.

Residents at the Grand Oaks assisted living facility work on one of the butterfly sculptures in the weeks before the June 30 unveiling.

“Bridgette has done a remarkable job in bringing in culture to this community,” Commissioner Burroughs said. “Some of us understand that bringing in culture can be very difficult sometimes. For example, I had to explain to my classmate, Dowling, what culture exactly was. Sooner or later he was able to understand it, though. But I think Bridgette has done an extraordinary job, and we all owe her our thanks.”
Mayor Watford was impressed with the sculptures and the great turnout for the event. He also took Commissioner Burrough’s jabs about culture in stride with a smile.

“Like Terry said, I don’t know a lot about culture,” explained Mayor Watford. “I thought culture meant you watched PBS every once in a while. But I appreciate everyone for coming out to support this. This just shows you what Okeechobee is all about. I don’t know about you, but I am so proud to be a part of the City of Okeechobee.”

The City of Okeechobee Public Works Department helped to prepare the butterfly garden with concrete pads for the sculptures to be placed on, as well as trimming, mulching, clearing and installing benches.

Okeechobee Main Street is hopeful that the new sculptures will help bring visitors into the downtown area.

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