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Easter egg drop draws thousands
The Easter Bunny went high tech this year, trading hopping for helicopters as he thrilled Yuma's kiddies by making his colorful eggs rain down from the sky.
A whopping 40,000 plastic eggs loaded with goodies were dropped onto a school's athletic field, which itself was filled with a human swarm of an estimated 6,000 basket-wielding children and adults. The event took place at Desert Mesa Elementary.
Organizers with The Vertical Church said their wildest dreams were originally to have 1,000 kids attend. But they knew something bigger was in store when 4,000 kids had already preregistered as of Friday.
"This is more than we ever expected," said Julie Stevens, church administrator, as she counted people coming through the gates. "It just shows that there is a need for this kind of community project and event. We're blessed. It's just awesome."
The Easter Bunny could be seen waving from the helicopter as it made several passes over the field, dropping load after load of eggs as kids waited behind barriers for the hunt to begin. But the crowds were too big and their excitement too great, leading children to actually break through the tape barriers about 15 minutes before the hunt's expected start.
Most of the eggs, which were tightly taped to survive the fall, contained an assortment of candy treats. About 500 eggs boasted cash money, while some others offered up gift certificates for everything from iPods to $100 toy store shopping sprees. Prizes totalled $4,000.
Prior to the event announcers were forced to continually remind parents to step back, stop pressing against the tape barriers, and make room for the kids. "Remember this is for the kids," was blared across the sound system more than once.
"It's almost like a herd of cattle out there," noted parent Pam Northrop.
The size of the event seemed to have caught many people off guard.
"It was mayhem. It was utter chaos," reported Tanner Knudtson, 11. "Everyone kept tripping people, pushing around."
But Knudtson added that he still had fun, even if his impressive haul of eggs yielded only candy - no prizes.
About 38,000 eggs were filled during three eight-hour days, with 15-20 adults working each day. The remaining 2,000 eggs were filled by the pastor, his wife and another couple a few nights ago.
Pastor Jason Taylor with The Vertical Church acknowledged a "little bit of a mess" with kids unexpectedly rushing the event's start, but the pastor strongly praised the event's clear success.
"It went off pretty good. I hope everyone had a good time," Taylor said. "We're pleased with the event and we thank Yuma for their cooperation and everyone who came out."
Taylor said the church had been looking for a way to spread the word about its organization, all while "throwing a big party to give back to the community."
Parent Dawn Shephard praised the church's work, calling the event "like the lottery for kids."
"It think it was really well planned, well organized, (and) really obviously a good turnout," Shephard said. "I'm really grateful someone in the community decided to do something like this."
The relatively short-lived hunt for eggs quickly turned into a hunt for kids. Just a few minutes into the hunt parents could be seen all around worriedly searching for their children. The time announcers spent calling out names of lost children at the lost and found booth actually lasted much longer than the egg hunt itself. A small army of volunteers searched the grounds for children who were separated from their parents.
Pastor Taylor expressed his gratitude to God that the church was able to provide a safe event. He added that church leaders are already talking about staging next year's event.
"We're going to have to have a bigger venue..." he said. "We'll be praying about it and thinking about it."
The spectacle of so many people even drew a small crowd of onlookers who remained outside the field's fences, but wanted a peek all the same. Marie and Jim Gribble put down some chairs along the sidewalk and simply enjoyed the show.
"I want to see the eggs come out of the helicopter!" Marie said. "I can't believe my eyes, though. How many people do you think are out here?"
Her husband, Jim, commended The Vertical Church for offering a unique way to discover Jesus Christ.
"If it will draw people where they will be exposed to what Christ has done for humanity I'm all for it," he said.
Darin Fenger can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6860.