MARCO ISLAND — Saturday at Marco’s Mackle Park, a horde of young children proved that they really could clean up their room, if they were just motivated right.
As always, the annual Spring Jubilee featured an Easter egg hunt, and the kids were clearly motivated, racing to scoop up all the brightly colored plastic eggs off the grass before their peers. They were so motivated, in fact, that they jumped the gun when City Council Chairman Larry Magel, trying to give them a countdown for an orderly start to the hunt, uttered the fateful words, “okay, here we go.”
With that, keyed-up youngsters, crouched all around the areas marked off with ribbons for the various age groups, sprinted out onto the field, and stripped the grass bare of eggs in about a minute.
“Wow, it’s like a vacuum,” said Jose Diaz, watching in awe as the eggs disappeared into bags, buckets and Easter baskets. No need to worry that these children do not possess a healthy level of competitive instinct.
“One kid actually jumped over me” when she crouched down to pick up some eggs, said Josie Torres, 10, but she still managed to come up with one of the 48 “eggstra-special” golden eggs, entitling the finder to exchange it for an Easter basket. Katie Mendez sat in the back of the Parks & Rec pickup truck, surrounded by a crush of children and their parents, redeeming the golden eggs as fast as she could.
Apart from the golden eggs, there were 18,000 regular eggs, each with a candy or prize inside. After the thrill of the chase, the family groups gathered together, in little knots of hunter-gatherers, and inspected the morning’s take. There were Tootsie-Rolls, Smarties, tattoo decals, mints, and some Flintstones-wrapped candies, once the eggs were popped open. Aidan O’Sullivan, “four-and-a-half” years old, was willing to share a package of Smarties with a passerby.
Before the big hunt, children packed the park, and the family cars packed every parking space, swale, and front yard. Kids got boat rides on the lake from the Marco Island Community Sailing Center, and train rides around the lake from the Knights of Columbus. The Optimist Club cooked up hot dogs and hamburgers, with all the food items donated by the Marriott.
Parents took their children to have their photo taken with the Easter bunny, although some of the younger set, such as Matthew Daniels, age 20 months, weren’t sure being left alone with this strange creature was a good idea. Children got professional face painting, and worked on their own coloring skills at the crafts tables.
They bounced in the bounce house, lined up to be caricatured by artist John Salustro, and practiced their throwing arms tossing a ball through a tire, or, even more satisfying, knocking over a stack of milk cans.
Speaking of milk, Community Services Director Bryan Milk sat at a tent with a big water cooler jug, soliciting contributions to help make the new recreation center for Mackle Park a reality. Peering into the jug at the money inside, he said a little more would be required.
“What a gorgeous day,” enthused Magel, watching thousands of children scour the field for the last few eggs. “It’s great to see all the kids out here. This shows the community support for our recreation programs, and why we need a new rec center.”