MARCO ISLAND — How do you make 18,000 Easter eggs disappear? Leave it to the kids. At the 2011 Spring Jubilee at Mackle Park on Saturday morning, brightly colored ribbons marked off zones on the athletic fields, separating the areas for various age groups. Inside the ribbons, even more brightly colored plastic eggs waited for the official start at 11:30 a.m.
Then the stampede began, with children racing over the grass, filling up their baskets and bags. In two minutes, all the eggs were scooped up. This included the 24 special “golden eggs,” ala Willie Wonka, which each entitled the finder to turn in the egg and its ticket for a prize.
Children and their parents and grandparents thronged Mackle Park. City of Marco Island Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk guesstimated the crowd at 3,500 to 4,000, and pointed out the facility handled the crush of families with no problems.
“Wow. What a great family day,” he said. “Today we see a good profile of who’s using this facility,” which seemed to be more or less everybody.
The only real issue was parking, with cars lining Bald Eagle Drive, filling up the library parking lot, and filling every vacant lot or space not marked with threatening signage.
Before the egg hunt – and it was really more of a scramble than a hunt, with the eggs having no place to hide on the grass – children took part in a wide variety of activities, many run by volunteers. Joe Granda and the Knights of Columbus brought a kiddie train, that made circles of the park’s lake. The youngsters blew bubbles, painted eggs, and in turn got their faces painted. They played ring toss, added their contributions to coloring the giant Spring Jubilee poster, and spun hula hoops to the music of DJ Dominick Buonantono.
Children lined up to have their faces caricatured by artist John Salusto, tried their hand at bowling with plastic pins and balls, and enjoyed pony rides on gentle steeds, escorted by Norm Wilson with his “Manure Happens” t-shirt. The Kids’ Cove playground was full, with at least one grandfather sneaking in a quick descent on the fireman’s pole. Children including Heather Ferguson, 8, splashed and cooled off in the water feature.
Young and old alike were fascinated by a display of exotic reptiles and other animals exhibited by Quentin Botelho and his father. Specimens included ball and Burmese pythons, scorpions, a bearded dragon lizard, a fat-tailed gecko, and an African spurthigh turtle.
But when the time came for the egg hunt, all else was forgotten. Hula hoops, bowling pins, and marking pens lay abandoned while the children found their proper area. The hunt had separate areas for ages 3 and under, 4-5, 6-7, and 8-10, to give the younger kids a chance.
“This is another great event by the city of Marco,” said Derrick Rodriguez, standing with his wife Michelle and two daughters. “They are so organized. It’s great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
One example of that organization: in a triumph of procurement, the concession stand where Eric Dial kept the grill going, was just running out of food as the event ended.
“It’s down to the last burger and the last dog. I’ll take whatever you’ve got,” said Larry Bowser, one of the last customers.