Every year, the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department gives families in the community a chance to celebrate Easter with Eggstravaganza, where local kids can participate in Easter egg hunts in parks around town.
The event is typically hosted in Chase Palm and Bohnett parks on the Saturday morning before Easter Sunday, and a normal year sees more than 300 participants running around collecting thousands of eggs filled with candy, supplied through generous annual donations from the Santa Barbara Firefighters and Police Officers associations.
But this year, the Parks and Recreation Department found themselves in a bind.
“We already had the eggs. I was already prepared and ready to do this whole thing, and then the coronavirus pandemic hit,” said Recreation Supervisor Adam Porte.
With 8,000 eggs already purchased and ready to go, Mr. Porte and the rest of the Parks and Recreation staff decided they weren’t going to let the coronavirus cancel the yearly fun, and so they decided to pass on the Eggstravaganza to Santa Barbara’s households with at-home Easter hunt supplies.
Partnering with the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Parks and Recreation staff spent Friday handing out hundreds of Easter goodie bags, which will allow families to have their own smaller-scale egg hunts in the safety of their homes. The bags were distributed at Adams, Franklin, Monroe, and Harding Elementary schools.
When looking for a way to get the eggs out to the public, Mr. Porte thought the perfect choice was to pair with the school district, which is already doing grab-and-go lunch distribution, in order to spread the fun while following guidelines for social distancing.
“My idea was let’s work with the school district because they already are distributing lunches safely and it’s a really easy process,” said Mr. Porte.
“Hopefully we’re reaching those needy families that may not be able to afford to go get eggs and candy to do some kind of egg hunt at their house by themselves. The idea was to just give them a means or at least a start to be able to celebrate this holiday at home.”
Mr. Porte and the Parks and Recreation staff distributed 800 goodie bags, each containing 10 eggs, which were purchased from HolidayGoo.
“It’s a really cool company because they employ adults with disabilities. So they have adults with disabilities that are putting candy into eggs and then they get an hourly rate for that. So those people with disabilities have a job and then we buy the eggs off of that company and they ship them to us already filled and everything,” said Mr. Porte.
“It’s kind of like a full circle thing because we also do adaptive programs for adults with disabilities too.”
The goodie bags were a hit, and kids loved waiving to the Easter Bunny, a staple of Eggstravaganza, who was outside Adams School, Mr. Porte told the News-Press.
“I didn’t stay for the whole thing, but when I was there at Adams (School) from 11:30 to 12 there must have been… oh man, it seemed like there was a car a minute, so it must have been like 30 cars that came through,” said Mr. Porte.
“I think what the school district is doing is really awesome, so I think families are so grateful for the grab-and-go lunches. I think that’s really helping out families a lot, and then them seeing us there, they were really grateful for us too. You got to see smiles, what smiles you could through the masks that everybody was wearing. You could tell when somebody’s glowing, even when they have a mask on, and they’re super happy and excited.”
While the candy needed to be handed out before it went bad, Mr. Porte said he could have held onto the eggs for future events.
“Honestly I could have used it when we get back to summer,” said Mr. Porte, who is in charge of several of the Parks and Recreation summer camps. “I could have used them for a lot of summer camps and kind of done egg hunts over the summertime to switch it up for the kids a little bit.”
But he and the rest of the Parks and Recreation staff felt that it was time to give Santa Barbara’s families a little reprieve from the stress so many have been under.
“We thought let’s do this now. Let’s do something good right now for the community. The community needs this. It’s a good time for them to take their mind off of all the craziness that is going on right now.”
While social distancing orders are confining families to their homes right when springtime is calling them outdoors, Mr. Porte said the Parks and Recreation Department is working hard to plan ahead for the summer.
“We’re still doing registrations (for summer camps),” said Mr. Porte. “We’re in the process of trying to get an online registration process up for some of the other camps that we haven’t taken registration for yet. When we do know when all this stuff changes and everything goes back to normal, we’ll have everything all set up so we can take registrations as quickly as possible.”