Nearly 300 kids aged 1 to 11 showed up at Soldotna Elementary Saturday morning to capitalize on the prospect of free candy at the community Easter egg hunt.
Released simultaneously at 10 a.m., the swarm of crazed children descended on the brightly colored plastic eggs with the zeal of, well, kids trying to grab more delicious sugar than their friends and siblings.
Like little vacuum cleaners in over-drive, they sucked up more than 4,000 eggs in less than two minutes. It was actually kind of frightening to witness.
Mercifully the children were separated into different age groups and zoned accordingly. The 1- to 4-year-olds were released on a flat, open field peppered with eggs, while the 5- to 8-year-olds received more of a challenge and had to navigate through playground equipment to fill their baskets with goodies.
The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, which promoted the event, decided to make the 9- to 11-year-olds pre-emptively work off some of that candy by scattering their eggs around and on top of the hill at the school.
"I was afraid the little ones might get trampled," said Rhonda Ferrell, the mother of an egg hunter, before realizing the kids would be separated by age.
Ferrell's son, Colin Fleming, is 10 and devised a plan of action before embarking on the hunt.
"Don't go up the hill first, because that's where everybody's going," he strategized.
Afterward, Fleming and his 9-year-old friend Gregory Bambelzor analyzed their haul, popping open the plastic eggs to find either candy or little slips of paper promising gifts from local retailers.
George Williams, a 7-year-old who came to the hunt with his dad and siblings, read one of the slips aloud.
"'You're a winner,'" he sounded out the words. "'One free kid's meal at Carl's Jr. in Kenai.'" Williams paused and looked up at his dad. "We go there almost every day."
Besides Carl's Jr., Trustworthy Hardware, Beemun's, Tammy's Flowers & Gifts, and more than a dozen other sponsors provided prizes for the event, with a catch: the recipient doesn't know what they will get until they actually go to the store to redeem their voucher.
"This is a way for us to drive traffic into our businesses to encourage people to buy local," said Robyn Sullens, a member of the chamber's board of directors.
All in all, the Easter egg hunt seemed to be a hit. The Easter bunny made a celebrity appearance and posed for pictures, and no one got elbowed in the face or tripped by an overzealous kid during the mad scramble for eggs.
"We did kind of spread them out on the starting line so there wasn't any trampling going on," said Ryan Kapp, the president of the chamber's board of directors. "We had zero injuries reported, so it was a successful event."
Karen Garcia can be reached at karen,firstname.lastname@example.org.
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