Hundreds of excited kids fill their baskets at Elings Park
By DAVE MASON and KATHERINE ZEHNDER
The countdown was on.
“10 … 9 … 8 … 7…” said an announcer at Elings Park, as hundreds of excited children and their parents waited before racing down a big field full of Easter eggs.
Actually, the crowd at the Santa Barbara park started running before the announcer got to 0. The kids couldn’t wait, as they broke loose from the grasps of their parents!
That was the scene Saturday morning at the Great Egg Hunt, where children happily filled their baskets with what they found among the 19,000 candy-filled eggs. There were about 700 to 800 participants on Saturday morning.
Smiling kids raced like crazy with their baskets, screaming in delight. Many of them even wore bunny ears. Santa Barbara resident Reed Tanner, who turns 3 today (happy birthday!), got dressed up as Tigger, with his parents noting their son’s celebrations of Halloween and Easter had successfully merged.
The kids were divided into age groups as they ran toward the Easter eggs, which were lying in plain sight, just waiting to be scooped up. And the kids did just that, with enthusiasm. Their parents had their phones out, taking photos of the children, and if the kids wanted to act silly in their pictures, the parents encouraged them. After all, it was Easter!
Before the main event, kids had fun posing for photos with none other than the Easter Bunny. Maude Stok, 3, of Santa Barbara didn’t want to leave him, but finally was persuaded to return to her dad.
“One or two toddlers were a little nervous about the Easter Bunny costume,” Dean Noble, executive director of Elings Park, told the News-Press afterward.
And there were a couple bounce houses for the kids, who jumped around and yelled happily. After all that bouncing around, they still had energy to run for their eggs.
Nearby, kids got their faces painted, and there was a table where they could color.
“Face painting was a huge hit. Some of these kids may have never had their faces painted before,” said Mr. Noble.
But for the most part, it was about the adrenalin rush of Easter. Accompanying the excitement were recorded 1980s rock hits, everything from Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” to Toto’s “Africa,” coming out of big speakers. And there were other songs intended for specific dances.
The announcer encouraged the kids to do the bunny hop, the Macarena, even some hokey pokey. That’s what it’s all about.
“The DJ played the bunny hop, and kids were spontaneously hopping and dancing to the bunny hop,” said Mr. Noble.
In fact, one dad was seen shaking his leg for the hokey pokey while his young daughter remained completely focused on filling her basket with eggs. For the most part, what got the kids excited were the eggs, the Easter bunny and, yes, the bounce houses.
The atmosphere was “relaxed and festive,” Mr. Noble told the News-Press. “Everyone enjoyed being on the grass and the playground. No one was in a hurry to go home. It was a glorious day.
“I hadn’t realized what a tradition this had been for so many local families, getting photos of their kids with the Easter Bunny,” Mr. Noble said. “They grow up so quickly you have to take advantage of these opportunities when you can. For many of these young children, the whole event was a brand new concept.
“For families with young children, you measure your family time in seasonal events like this,” said Mr. Noble.
2019 was the last time this event was held, which means that some of these kids weren’t even born yet.
“We were making joyful lifetime memories,” said Marinella Baker, Elings Park employee.
The egg hunt happened at a time when Elings Park appears to be thriving.
“We have a new bike path across Las Positas with lots more families coming on bikes or ebikes than before,” Mr. Noble said. “Bike traffic overall has increased at Elings park. Additionally, we will have 400 sheep and goats at the park as early as next week.”