ELBERTA WATERFRONT PARK—Joanne Bartley said it was the largest turnout for an Easter egg hunt she’d ever seen in her five years running the Chamber of Commerce event. The Waterfront Park lot was full, and cars spilled over to the shoulders of 168 on this bright, mild-for-April morning shortly after 10 a.m.
“Bombarded!” Bartley exclaimed, surveying the teeming hordes of shorter citizens swinging various modes of egg conveyance. The playground area, divided into age groups, had been cleared of its bounty in an estimated 10 seconds.
John Mead, district court attorney-magistrate, reported on the good behavior of the contestants. “I didn’t see any fights this year—you always have that one egg with two kids after it. Usually I have to break up a few scuffles between 7- and 8-year-old boys,” Mead said with some satisfaction.
Ken Bonney, Village DPW, was surprised by the hunt in a different way. “We didn’t know about it until we saw a sign Thursday night,” Bonney said. “I said, ‘Hey, Charlie, look at this! Looks like we better open the park!’” Ken and Charlie Hendershott then spent some time Friday cleaning and relining trash receptacles.
“We used to hold the event twice each time—10 am in Frankfort and 1 pm in Elberta. Which was just nuts,” said Bartley. She made the hunt into a moveable feast, alternating locations each year; 2011’s was a gray, drizzly, cold, and rather low-turnout day in Frankfort. “Sometimes we’re hiding eggs in the snow,” said Bartley.
Donna Phillips was in charge of the pregame meditation to get hunters focused on the task ahead of them. “We always tell people to get here early so they don’t miss it, so there’s about half an hour where we need to sing and do the wave.” Not many kids today know the words to “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” it turns out.
Aiden and William O’Dwyer of Washington Avenue, both 9, loved the hunt. Aiden was tallying his gleaming collection of colored plastic eggs containing Tootsie Frooties, packaged by the Easter Bunny’s helpers at the Maples. He had fourteen of them.
Just then, who should hop over but the great white hope herself, eager to shake hands with Aiden or possibly give him a hug, a fate that befell several other children in her path.
The Easter Bunny’s rep, Karen Dennis (who also does bookkeeping for the Chamber), flagged Bunny down so the Alert could get our exclusive interview.
“Let me get a little more presentable!” said E. Bunny, divesting herself of part of her uniform. Ms. Bunny has been working the Frankfort–Elberta egg hunt circuit for three years. She attends 11th-grade classes at Benzie Central High School, where she goes by the name of Dayanara Dennis and is a member of the National Honor Society.
The Alert complimented Bunny on her expressiveness. “Well, not being able to talk, I have to find other ways to communicate,” she said. These ways include a repertoire of effective physical gestures, such as the aforementioned hugs. The most challenging part? “Dealing with kids who are crying. Sometimes parents kind of shove their kids over to me even when they don’t really want to meet me.” But when you stop Bunny to get her photo and ask her to smile, she says, you can be sure that whatever her outward expression (there’s only one), she’s smiling big on the inside. She loves her work, and will be back again next year, on the Frankfort hunting grounds.