MARCO ISLAND — Both the “egg roll” and the “roll away the stone” aspects of Easter brought thousands of Marco Islanders out for large scale get-togethers over the weekend. The Easter Bunny went to bat first, with the annual Spring Jubilee “eggs-travaganza” held Saturday morning at Mackle Park.
Beautiful weather made the eggs sparkle on the grass, and the kids’ faces sparkle as they scooped them up, with approximately 18,000 plastic Easter eggs disappearing into Easter baskets, buckets and bags in approximately 30 seconds, after City Councilor Ken Honecker called out the final countdown over the PA system to kick off the hunt. The eggs didn’t stand a chance.
The kids did stand a chance, as they were separated by age brackets, and competing against children their own age, along with a few over-zealous parents helping their offspring Hoover up the eggs (and probably ghostwriting their college application essays in a few years).
The City of Marco Island’s Community Services Director Bryan Milk, watching from a safe vantage point on the sidelines, said he wanted to hire the swarm of youngsters for community cleanup.
“I need them as street sweepers,” he said, watching the youngsters scour the field. Talking with Paul Mayer of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and Mindy Gordon, recreation supervisor, the three put their heads together and guesstimated attendance at around 6,000, or essentially “everybody on the whole freakin’ island.”
Before the egg “hunt” drew everyone’s attention to the athletic field, marked off into sections for three and under, 4 to 5, 6 to 7, and 8 to 10 age brackets, kids swarmed over the park, enjoying a wide variety of recreational opportunities. They marveled at the magic tricks of John Robert, who pulled audience members up to assist, but in at least one case, stipulated they had to know one playing card from another. They filled little bottles with bright colors at the sand art table, where volunteer Lou Prigge helped out. They munched on hot dogs and hamburgers from the Optimist Club stand, where the smoke wafted tantalizingly through the covered “air-nasium.” For sweet treats presaging the Sunday orgy of egg and bunny-shaped chocolate candy they patronized the Marco Island Academy cheerleaders’ bake sale.
The children frolicked in five assorted bounce houses, got their faces painted like Easter eggs, sailed around the lake courtesy of the Marco Island Community Sailing Center, and rode around it on the kiddie train courtesy of the Knights of Columbus. They queued up in a long line to have their photos taken with the Easter Bunny, who put in a long day of posing, after presumably spreading out all those thousands of eggs.
Some kids invented their own games. Tye McCarty-Fisher, age three, set up plastic bowling pins on the bocce court, and then knocked them down by substituting himself for the bowling ball, having a ball in the process. Other children turned the rolled up exercise mats in the community center into tunnels for exploring.
The whole event showed just how much use Marco gets from Mackle Park. If and when the city does get around to revamping the park, one amenity they might want to consider is a multi-story parking garage, as cars covered every swale and lot, filled the parking lot at the library, and extended up Heathwood past Whiteheart Avenue and the History Museum.
The kids might wonder what they’re going to do with their baskets full of Easter eggs, but they sure had fun collecting them.