In these days of high-tech toys, computers and other sophisticated devices, it might be reassuring to know that children are still attracted to the simplistic.
Eggs hidden on a patch of ground, a basket in hand to collect ones found and smiles all around — these have been the basic ingredients of a practice observed in America since the 1700s and the Old Country long before that.
That tradition was carried on Saturday in Mount Airy in a big way when hundreds of people converged on Westwood Park for the fourth-annual Easter egg hunt staged by the city parks and recreation division.
The turnout was estimated at 400 kids alone by Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis, not counting parents, grandparents and others who accompanied them.
A crowd began assembling well before the 10 a.m. start time of Saturday’s event, which was aided by pleasant weather conditions.
The attraction: 8,000 brightly colored plastic eggs containing candy and toys which had been meticulously placed on the two ballfields at Westwood Park and wooded areas there by eight members of a park and recreation team who arrived bright and early.
“We started about a quarter to eight this morning and probably finished by nine,” Reeves Community Center Aquatics Supervisor Cathy Cloukey said while directing traffic arriving at the park on Galax Trail.
Three different hunts were organized for the throngs of kids, who were divided into age groups including “Little Bunnies,” (for children up to age 3), “Running Rabbits” (ages 4-6) and “Top Hoppers” (7 and up).
They gathered at their respective locations at the park before each of the staggered hunts and waited anxiously behind yellow caution tape for the command to begin.
“And the hunt is on!” Lewis’ voice blared from a loudspeaker as the caution tape dropped for the first one of the day.
Children dashed into the areas where the eggs were for each hunt, the grassed outfields of the park’s two softball diamonds and wooded sections of the park’s walking trail. They were seeking not only the normal eggs filled with candy and toys but a golden one concealed for each of the three segments.
Those were good for a special Easter basket full of goodies.
While the annual holiday eggs-travaganza supposedly was held on behalf of local youngsters, one got the impression that the adults in attendance were having just as good a time.
“From a dad’s point of view, I think it’s a great event,” said a young father carrying his daughter, who’ll soon turn 2.
“I can take my daughter out and have a good time,” added the man, who says such occasions are rare. “I work a lot of hours every week.”
Bunny a big hit
No self-respecting egg hunt would be complete without an appearance by the Easter Bunny, who was on hand Saturday to greet children and have pictures made with them in between the three segments.
The bunny was accompanied by Taylor Heaton, who served as spokesperson and otherwise assisted the costumed character.
Heaton said one thing people always want to know is the relationship between the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs. “That’s a question I get asked a lot,” she said.
“A long time ago, it was because of fertility,” Heaton said of historical accounts of rabbits becoming symbols of fertility due to their well-documented reputation as prolific procreators. The idea of an egg-laying rabbit might have been born with the Romans, who believed all life came from eggs, and so the tradition has survived.
Easter egg hunting began in America with the arrival of German immigrants, starting as a game that evolved into treasure hunts with prizes progressing from simple hard-boiled eggs to chocolate, candy, toys and coins.
As for the Easter Bunny, not every kid warms up to the classic character at first, as one might suspect.
“Believe it or not, a lot of children are scared,” Heaton said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.