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More than 300 children turn out for egg hunt at City Park

April 11, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - It could have been the start of a marathon, the way everyone was lined up, leaning forward, waiting for the signal to go.

But the competitors were children, and the race was short and frenzied.

They sprinted across the grass at City Park in Hagerstown to scoop up as many plastic eggs as their eyes could spot and their bags, buckets and baskets could hold.

Volunteers hid more than 3,000 eggs for a hunt sponsored by the student ministries at Tri-State Fellowship Church, which is northwest of Hagerstown.

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Eric T.G. Boutieller, the associate pastor of student ministries, said that about 330 children came with their parents or other adults. He said the hunt was his wife's idea.

On the band shell stage, youth group member Sarah Shinham, 18, of Hagerstown, warmed up the crowd, revival-style, with a series of prize giveaways.

Who has a pair of sunglasses? A left shoe? A baby picture? A camera?

Children - and a few parents - charged toward the stage to be first and get their pick from a box of small toys.

The crowd sufficiently was revved up that few people noticed volunteers pulling bags and bags of plastic eggs out of a Honda Accord and sprinkling, hurling and burying them in the fields.

Boutieller asked the children in the audience if they had lied and if they had been mean to their siblings or parents. Many raised their hands.

"That's called sin," he said. "Jesus came to Earth and died for our sins. The penalty you have to pay for lying to your parents is death and eternal separation from God."

A short re-enactment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ gave volunteers enough time to hide the last eggs.

Then, the hunt was on.

The youngest age group - walking to 3 years old - had the easiest time because all of their eggs were lying in plain sight.

The oldest of the three groups - grades 2, 3 and 4 - had to work a little harder. Eggs were concealed in piles of leaves and under stray limbs. A few were tucked into gaps in tree trunks.

At the start, some children dashed to the other side of the commons. Some stalked the sidelines. Many simply dropped their heads down and examined every inch of the ground.

It took four or five minutes, tops, for the bulk of the eggs to be claimed. One boy stumbled upon the mother lode: about 20 eggs piled under a light leaf cover.

One girl couldn't keep pace and found her first egg as most children were heading back to trade theirs for candy prizes.

It was a tiring several minutes for Allie Cox, 8, of Hagerstown, who fell back, spread eagle, onto the grass and rested.

After a minute or two, Allie joined her friend, Marissa Frederickson, 8, of Hagerstown, in the candy claiming line. Each had three eggs.

Marissa said eggs were tough to find and other children were quick.

"There was one I could see, but other people came running," Allie said.

Just then, Eric Boutieller's son Jake, 7, gave the girls three eggs apiece. "I didn't need any," he explained, suddenly eggless.

His brother, Eric Jr., who said that he'll turn 10 on Friday, decided that Jake really did need some eggs, so he gave Jake a few of his.

Eric Jr. said he had at least 15 eggs jiggling in the baseball cap he was holding, but, in the commotion around him, he tripped and about half fell out.

Damaris Ortiz, 31, of Hagerstown, brought her boyfriend, Luis Zayas, 24, and her children, Irving Pagan and Kristal Pagan, both 7, and Emely Vega, 10. Zayas's sister, Milly Colon, 26, of Hagerstown, was with her children, Yashira Aponte, 8; Adamis Aponte, 6; and Lester Alvarado, 5. The children walked away with plenty of candy and said they had fun.

Victoria Mohr, 35, of Hagerstown, sat on a bench with a heavy bag of sweets that her children - Marrissa, 15; Joseph, 11; Thomas, 7; Sara, 6; Stephane, 6; and Cole, 2 - collected.

Mohr joked that she will claim the treats for herself. Asked how long they'll last, she said, "'Til at least Halloween - then I get my next stash."

Boutieller said the egg hunt, combined with the re-enactment and discussion, helped the church show the real meaning of Easter, which is not "eggs and candy and bunnies."

"The real meaning is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," he said. "I think sometimes that gets lost."

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