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Mackle Park hosted a big kids’ party Saturday morning – not a party for big kids, but a big party for little kids. The Spring Jubilee drew thousands, mostly from Marco Island but also from as far away as New Jersey, Argentina, and Poland, vacationers who brought the family out for the spectacle.

Behind the screens, the shell of the new recreation center due to be completed in August was visible, but for this day, the focus was on the outdoors. A host of games and activities kept everyone busy, but all other activity ceased shortly before 11:30, when the Easter egg hunt began. Watching the horde of children make quick work of scooping up 20,000 brightly colored plastic eggs, you could see the genes that made our species into successful hunter-gatherers at work.

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It was really more gathering than hunting, as the eggs sat in plain sight on the close-cropped grass, and children sprinted about grabbing and dropping them into baskets, buckets and bags. The hunt had separate areas for ages 3 and under, 4-5, 6-7, and 8-10, to give the younger kids a chance, and with the younger ages, many parents went beyond coaching to hands-on helping with the harvest.

Grand Knight Dan Moll of the Knights of Columbus and fellow knight Joe Granda took turns as engineer of the kiddie train that made circles of the park’s lake, while on the lake, young volunteers sailed even younger crewmates around in sailing dinghies, propelled by a steady breeze. 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 competed in spinning hula hoops to the music of DJ Dominick Buonantono.

Another popular contest under the air-nasium was the limbo, with Natasha Gengenbach and Lola Dial of the city’s Parks & Recreation Dept. holding opposite ends of the pole as the kids determined how low they could go. Young Optimist Leadership volunteers, including Virginia Lowe, 12, made endless Sno-cones to turn children’s tongues, and sometimes their shirts, a rainbow of colors. A long line formed for photos with the Easter Bunny shot by Betsy Francis, but once they got there, some of the younger kids weren’t thrilled about getting too close.

Marco Island Senior Softball League commissioner Bill Shurina and his crew of volunteers set up and broke down the egg hunt, which took much more time, after and especially before, than it took the children to sweep the field of eggs, once City Council Chairman Larry Honig, standing in a pickup truckbed, gave the countdown.

Figure out how to harness the power and enthusiasm of those children as they race to grab all the treasures they can, and we will never have to deal with another energy crisis.

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