Zebra longwing butterfly meeting

At the Jan. 28 City Commission meeting, Winter Haven Cultural Arts Advisory Committee members Judy Cleaves and Kurtis Flanders proposed making the Zebra Longwing Butterfly the city mascot.

WINTER HAVEN – If you have lived in the area for awhile, it's likely that you have seen the painted fiberglass swans in front of Lakeland businesses. Known as Swansation, business owners purchase a “blank” fiberglass swan to paint as they choose, with proceeds benefiting local art projects.

Now, a group of Winter Haven leaders are trying to initiate a similar project.

The first step of the project was picking a city mascot. At the Jan. 28 City Commission meeting, Winter Haven Cultural Arts Advisory Committee members Judy Cleaves and Kurtis Flanders proposed making the zebra longwing butterfly the city mascot.

“We can use this symbol to unite Winter Haven and enrich the community,” Flanders said. “The City of Lakeland used its chosen mascot during the city art project Swansation to bring in $370,000 for a local children's museum and several non-profits.”

The zebra longwing butterfly has already beautified a few places around the downtown area. Recently volunteers with Arts Ensemble Downtown Growing Positivity/Outer Space Gallery and members of the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee teamed up to place a public piano downtown, adorned with lots of brightly colored butterflies.

Outback Oasis owner Paul Schulz was recently commissioned to paint a zebra longwing butterfly on a utility box in South Central Park.

Flanders and Cleaves said the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee considered several mascot ideas over the past year. Former committee member Macy Butler was first to come up with the idea. Butler proposed the Sand Hill Crane. Some said these would be harder to paint and creating the fiberglass mold may be expensive because those cranes tend to walk around in groups. Others thought the iconic image of a Cypress Gardens skier would be best.

“We are convinced that the zebra longwing butterfly is the absolute best choice for Winter Haven's mascot,” Flanders said. “A butterfly is symbolic in many theologies, representing change or transformation — beauty, life, and so much more.”

The zebra longwing has been the state butterfly of Florida since 1996. It's the only species known to eat pollen and drink nectar, and the butterflies live five or six months — longer than other butterflies.

“Shouldn't our city mascot represent that we are unique, and that we work hard towards extended longevity,” Flanders asked the commissioners

The commissioners agreed unanimously.

Contact Charles A. Baker III at cbaker@scmginc.com.

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