MISSOULA — New to the Missoula County Fairgrounds is a special exploration center.
“Our mission and goal is to help people be confident in the things that they want to do either in their kitchen or in their backyard or in their gardens. We have this culinary classroom. We have a two-and-a-half-acre demonstration garden. Those are free programs that are really hands-on programs,” Missoula County Ecology and Extension director Bryce Christiaens told MTN News.
The Gerald W. Marks Building houses 4-H programming, a plant clinic, a state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen, MSU Extension, Horticulture, Healthy Acres Foundation, and the Missoula Conservation District.
Additionally, there's a butterfly house and insectarium ready for experiential learning.
“It’s just gonna be a great educational opportunity for all ages. We don’t want the visit to be an end in itself. We really want it to be a jumping-off point," Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium Executive Director Jen Marangelo explained.
Jen and her husband Glenn Marangelo have put 20 years into making their butterfly dream a reality.
“There is a gentleman in Denver who is a broker for butterfly houses around the country and so he receives the chrysalides or the pupa from all over the world and then he distributes them out to the different butterfly houses around the country," Jen Marangelo said.
Walk into the butterfly house and watch them soar around the greenery or even land on your shoulder.
Madeline Kleeman — the naturalist and interpreter at the Exploration Center — says she's excited for people to learn more about bugs and maybe even face some fears.
“Folks can come and be curious and learn about something that they wouldn’t particularly know a lot about or be able to find the information on. I really hope we invoke a deeper curiosity in nature through our invertebrates.”
Stop by the Missoula Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Sundays for an experience unlike any other. Tickets are available for purchase online or in person.