Pastor Steve Lane of New Beginnings Community Church has a simple message for the annual Easter Extravaganza — don’t be late.
This year, that applies to the time of the event and the date.
“We moved it up a week because we were so wore out by Easter Sunday that no one felt like coming to church,” Lane joked.
The event, now in its 12th year, will be March 24 at J.F. Gregory Park. In past years it was held the day before Easter. The park opens at 10 a.m., and the festivities run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
“We encourage people to come early,” Lane said. “Especially if the weather is nice, it will draw thousands of people. Traffic is usually backed up in both directions on Ford Avenue.”
Lane estimates some 4,000 people attended last year, making it the second biggest event at J.F. Gregory Park behind the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.
Rain or shine, 35,000 plastic eggs stuffed with candy will cover the park.
“We’ve got about 6,500 left,” Lane said. “We’ve been having stuffing parties for weeks.”
One lesson the church learned early on was not to put chocolate inside the eggs.
“We start putting them out around 7 in the morning and one year it was really warm,” he said. “All that chocolate melted and what a mess that was.”
While children are allowed to keep the eggs, containers will be set up to return them.
“Most people bring a bag with them to dump the candy in and then return the eggs on their way out,” he said. “We usually get about 75 or 80 percent back.”
Some of the eggs will have tickets inside that can be redeemed for prizes. And if you do show up late, Lane said not to worry.
“We always keep some eggs back for children who show up late or might be too timid to jump right in,” he said. “We don’t want anyone leaving disappointed.”
Aside from the egg hunt, there will be games, food, bounce houses and pictures with the Easter Bunny.
Hot dogs, chips, cookies, Coke and water are available at no charge.
Lane estimated about 80 percent of the congregation volunteers in some way for the event. About 20 local businesses also help with sponsorships and donations.