Spring was in the air and colorful plastic eggs were on the ground Saturday in J.F. Gregory Park — around 30,000 colorful plastic eggs to be exact as far as the eye could see, all carefully placed one-by-one just in time for the annual Easter Extravaganza.
At the sound of the whistle, thousands of children raced to lay claim on as many candy-filled eggs as they could. And despite the large number of eggs for the taking, the hunt was over nearly as fast as it began.
Following the egg hunt, 4-year-old Wyatt Hutchens sat at picnic table checking out his loot with his parents Toby and Tammie Hutchens of Richmond Hill.
“We’ve lived here five years, and we’ve come every year,” Toby Hutchens said. “It’s a fun event, and (Wyatt) really looks forward to it.”
Though all the eggs were hunted quickly, families stayed in the park to enjoy free hot dogs from Publix, free drinks from Coke, and other activities like bounce houses, face painting and more. Children even had the chance to visit with the Easter bunny.
Steve Lane, pastor of New Beginnings Community Church, said the day couldn’t have gone any better.
“This year was the smoothest it’s ever been. And the weather was perfect,” he said.
“Amazingly, this year we had zero complaints ... It’s never big complaints, but we heard more appreciation this year — we heard lots of thanks.”
Based on the number of hot dogs given out, Lane estimated around 4,000 attended the event. In the days leading up to the Easter Extravaganza, church members and even Girl Scouts were busy putting candy in the eggs at egg-stuffing parties, he said.
Lane noted that around 80 percent of church members volunteered in some way — stuffing eggs, helping direct cars for parking, putting eggs out at 7:30 a.m. and doing games and activities with kids.
“Without that, (the Easter Extravaganza) wouldn’t happen,” he said.
Lane said he was also grateful for the events sponsors.
“We really couldn’t put this on without our sponsors either,” he said. “The church puts in about $3,500, but we have sponsors ... so it all comes together.”
Lane said he and other organizers have already started looking ahead to next year, including brainstorming ways to cut back some of the long lines, or at least help them move faster, for things like hot dogs and to see the Easter bunny.
“We’ll do this for as long as we can,” he said.