The $16 Million Butterfly House and Insectarium will break ground on Friday at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

On Monday’s Talk Back show, County Extension Agent Jerry Marks and Jen and Glenn Marangelo of the Butterfly House and Insectarium answered questions from listeners.

Marks began by describing the changes to the fairgrounds as they prepare for this year’s Western Montana Fair.

“There are definitely some changes,” said Marks. “The main one that is not going to be there is the horse races. They will be planning on a new livestock facility and a new rodeo, so they're still keeping it very much in our Western culture. They have modernized or upgraded the commercial building and the culinary building and put in a bunch of new food booth to meet the current requirements. So it's really being a rebuilt fairgrounds to appeal to an audience that has actually become more urban but still want very much to have a county fair.”

Marks described the duties of a County Extension Agent.

“A county extension agent is very much into education,” he said. “We're very much into working with people to bring in some science, to bring research to them as they work through their issues and trying to make their world better. We do very much to enrich social and economic well being of the Missoula community.”

Jen and Glenn Marangelo are the guiding forces behind the new Butterfly House and Insectarium that will be part of the $16 million project at the fairgrounds.

“The building itself is 29,000 square feet of indoor space,” said Jen Marangelo. “As Jerry had mentioned, that's going to house not only our organization but also the Missoula County District and Extension Service and the Missoula Conservation District. I don't know if folks have ever visited the Missoula Insectarium that was downtown, but this facility will have two times the exhibit space for the Insectarium, and we will have a 2,500 square foot butterfly house.”

Glenn Marangelo said the new facility has long been in the planning stages.

“This is definitely not something that has popped up overnight,” he said. “It's been something that we've been working on together. I was part of the founding board of directors going on the past five years. It's both of our professions. We're both kind of doing our personal and professional life devoted to this, but it's been a heck of a journey. And we're just so incredibly excited to finally be at the stage where we are right now. We're getting ready to realize that dream that that started everything so long ago.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility will be at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14 at the Missoula County Fairgrounds just off the South Avenue entrance, and the public is invited to attend.

Marangelo said the ground breaking will also coincide with the 80th birthday celebration for County Extension Agent Jerry Marks who has been at the county for 51 years.


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