If you’re planning to attend Saturday’s Easter Extravaganza at J.F. Gregory Park in Richmond Hill, the man whose church started it all has one bit of advice.
Get there early. Please. Because much like the city in which it takes place, this event has grown, and grown some more.
"People do need to get there early, because the event starts at 11 sharp," said Pastor Steve Lane of New Beginnings Community Church, which sponsors and puts together the annual Easter event complete with free food, the Easter bunny, bouncy houses and other fun and games for children.
Now in its 11th year, the Easter Extravaganza, which opens at 10 a.m. and includes activities from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., has grown from a small local favorite into a large local favorite, with families coming from around the Coastal Empire to participate. It’s gotten so popular, Lane said he asked Savannah TV stations to stop including it on their community calendars.
As far as Richmond Hill events go, only the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival draws more people to J.F. Gregory Park. Lane estimated 4,000 people will attend Saturday in celebration of Easter.
It’s a labor of love for New Beginnings, with roughly 80 percent of the congregation chipping in to help put it on.
"One of the philosophies of our church is that we want people to be givers and give back to the community," Lane said. "A lot of people, when they think of givers, they think of money, but to give back to the community is important. That’s really the reason we started this thing."
While most of the work is done by the church — that includes stuffing of 35,000 plastic eggs, which volunteers wrapped up a few weeks ago — there are 20 business partners who help make the event a success, Lane said.
So does the city, which now considers the Easter Extravaganza a fixture in the life of Richmond Hill and J.F. Gregory Park.
And the Easter Extravaganza always takes place rain or shine, Lane said.
"Even if it rains the eggs will still be distributed to the kids," he said. "We won’t be able to put them out, but they’ll still be able to fill their baskets. So come on out, even if it’s raining."
Just make sure you get there early.