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A Quirk of Nature

Since it opened in Lincoln Park eight years ago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum has struggled to raise money, draw crowds, and make itself known as more than the site of a stunning butterfly haven. Will it find its own way–or merge with the nearby zoo?

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Looming like icebergs, the white tents rise from the grass at Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive, the busiest intersection in Lincoln Park. They dominate the front of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, but there is still enough space on the contemporary building’s façade for a light show of dancing purple butterflies.

The ninth annual black-tie Butterfly Ball, the museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year, is this evening in early May. The event has always been elaborate and glamorous (one gala focused on magic illusions, with guests entering the museum through a 15-foot-high house of cards), and tonight’s-a Victorian-themed celebration-is no exception. More than six hundred guests, who have paid $600 a ticket, walk through a gazebo swagged with roses and peonies; overhead, mechanical butterflies flutter against a gauzy ceiling. The crowd is young and happy. Most of the gowns are backless, and black is the color of the night, although Desiree Rogers, the senior vice president of Peoples Energy, bucks the trends in a mercury silver gown; and Donna LaPietra, a vice president and executive producer of Kurtis Productions, wears a brightly colored striped dress with a short skirt that flutters away from her body like butterfly wings.

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