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Nancy Cozza from the Artists Melting Pot Ministry shows off a piece of art. (Photo by Chris Frost)
Friday, November 8, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard-- It was a busy day at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery, Nov. 2, as the Second Annual Monarch Butterfly Festival brought people together all working towards making their corner of the world a better place.


The event featured lots of art and activities, good food, and plenty of fellowships, as people gathered to draw attention to the monarch butterfly and their plight for survival. The event also serves as a fundraiser for the cemetery to restore it to its former glory.  


Event Organizer Nancy Cozza from the Artists Melting Pot Ministry said the event is growing because people are learning they are there.


"We're doing our outreach a little bit earlier," she said. "In the past, we started in Sept., and now we are promoting this event all year round. Our vendors are all new."


Preserving the monarch butterfly habitat and restoring the Pleasant Valley Cemetery, known to many as the Japanese Cemetery, drives her forward.


"We made improvements and cleaned it up," she said. "We're planting indigenous plants, and we're trying to preserve the flight of the monarch butterfly and make sure they have a place over the winter on its way to Mexico. It depends on whether or not they migrate."


The Artists Melting Pot Ministry are individual facilitators, she said, that promote peace daily.


Everyone is an individual facilitator," she said. "We're mostly senior citizens, and we go around helping and doing for people all year long. We all have something that we do for individuals who need care. We also teach art, and we have ceramic and painting classes."


TomTom, the yo-yo Man, (Tom Von Allmen) is a return guest at the festival, and he came dressed in a Victorian 1870s morning coat.


"We're doing the normal stuff we did last year," he said. "I'm going to be doing some yo-yo tricks up on the stage later on. We're also trying to get the kite contest going.  We're a little light on the wind, but we'll try." 


He has a stake in the cemetery, and his great grandparents Friedrich and Christine Otte, are buried at the cemetery.


He loves working with Cozza.


"We're trying to preserve history and the monarch butterfly population," he said. 


Destiny Herrera won a dance contest and got a prize. She got her dance moves from her friend.


"We've been practicing," she said. "I play on a softball team, called the USA Phenom, and we have a lot of dancing talent. When we go in a circle, we dance."


She won a Mr. Pinky and a "We Busy" t-shirt.


Mom Amanda Herrera is proud of her daughter because she isn't shy, and she can get out there, shake her tailfeather, and have fun.


"Her grandma and grandpa taught her everything," she said. "I'm not taking full responsibility."


Destiny likes to dance when she's at school.


"I three-step sometimes," she said. 


Amanda said she and Destiny were checking out all the cemetery plots.


"The oldest one is from 1802," she said. "The butterfly exhibit is cool. The girls are heading back over there now."


Keyi Turner from "We Busy" ran the dance contest for the kids and said the shirts he gave to the children come from a movement he and his wife started for youngsters.


"It's an anti-bullying movement," he said. "It's also a clothing line that is at Walmart. It's something we made for the youth of Ventura. Now it's spreading across Los Angeles."


He met Cozza and wanted to come out and support the kids.


"We're helping her get the youth involved," he said. "That's what we're great at."


Patricia Waldron brought lots of monarch butterflies to the festival, and also painted lady butterflies set up in a natural habitat.


"We're working the theme here," she said. "The plants inside, they would appreciate eating. Apparently, the butterflies are too interested in trying to escape. We created an airlock, so they can't fly out the door."


She remembers seeing lots of butterflies when she was a child, but now it's rare.


"Anything I can do to help increase the population, that's what I am going to do," she said. "We're also trying to make a little money for this non-profit."  


Artist Robin Lee had a painting activity on display and brought plenty of her works of art that people could purchase.


She loves seeing the event grow and seeing all the kids come back to the festival.


"All the adults are participating," she said. "It's great. This young man here is making his giraffe and having a good time. 


Many of her paintings sold, and she also brought cards in packs of 10.


"They cost $10, or whatever you can donate," she said.