The Easter Bunny put in an appearance on Marco one day early.
The City of Marco Island held their annual Spring Jubilee Saturday at Mackle Park, and island kids, parents and grandparents thronged the event. Parks and Recreation employees estimated the total of attendees at 1,500, but looking around the park, you would have guessed that every child in Southwest Florida was there.
A crowd stacked up dozens deep under the covered pavilion to watch the kids play musical hoops. In this variation on musical chairs, children link hands in a circle, then pass themselves through hula hoops and hope not to be the one inside the hoop when the music stops.
Caricaturist John Salustro sat at his easel turning out comical portraits of the children lucky enough to sign up for a turn.
“The response was tremendous,” said Salustro. “All the tickets were gone in the first 15 minutes.”
Super Science and Amazing Art of Naples brought science down to a level youngsters could appreciate as they showed how to concoct impressively goopy multi-colored slime.
Kids Cove at the park was mobbed, and the warm, sunny weather had a steady stream of kids, and a few of their parents, running through the spray at the fountain splash area.
Children bounced in the Bounce House, and in the inflatable ball pit, and bounced from one activity to another. They got their pictures taken with the Easter Bunny, made clay sculptures, enjoyed balloon animals, played with piles of Lego blocks, and set up plastic bowling pins, only to knock them down at point-blank range with plastic bowling balls seemingly as large as themselves.
Numerous island organizations supplied volunteers who helped make the events run smoothly. The Optimists, Kiwanis, Rotary clubs, senior softball league, EMS and fire department were all on hand helping out.
Volunteers came in all sizes. Tara Snyder, 11, of Marco Island, a fifth grader at Tommie Barfield Elementary, painted the faces of dozens of kids to help out at the face painting booth.
She was painting “mostly butterflies and bunnies,” she said, and added “I’m not really an artist, but I do take classes at school.” Turning back to her work, she asked “what would you like?” as her next young customer sat down.
After almost two hours of preliminaries, it was time for the main event — the Easter egg hunt.
Divided into groups by age, the children lined up outside the grassy areas where thousands of eggs waited in plain sight. When the signal came, the eggs didn’t stand a chance. Like piranhas picking clean a skeleton, the children swarmed over the field and filled their baskets with breathtaking efficiency.
“He’s a vacuum cleaner,” laughed Cheryl Toth of Marco Island, watching her son Ryan, 7, in action. “Do you think they could clean their room that quick?”
“This is our first Easter here, and this is an awesome event,” said Velma Bulnes, formerly of Miami, who came with her three kids and one of a friend’s. “There were plenty of eggs — they really do it right.”
The Spring Jubilee has been happening “ever since Marco Island became a city,” said Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk. “This is a fantastic event, a real instance of the community coming together.” He estimated the total cost to the city at $8,000, and stressed the importance of providing youth-oriented activities on Marco.
Milk singled out program coordinator Mindy Matusiak as having done a great job putting the event together.