The cushion of pine needles that cover Cloquet’s Pine Valley park made a perfect backdrop for thousands of brightly colored Easter eggs Saturday, as nearly 450 children raced in and vacuumed up the plastic orbs in short order.
Some gathered a dozen or more, while others managed only a couple. Some little ones, like Isabelle Simmons, 1½, needed expert assistance — in Isabelle’s case from her big brother, 5-year-old Brendan Simmons.
That’s just how they like it, said Cloquet Community Education Director Ruth Reeves, explaining that regardless of the number of eggs the kids collected, every child left with an equal amount of candy and most of the 4,000 plastic eggs were returned, to be recycled for next year’s egg hunt.
“We no longer have candy inside the eggs,” Reeves said, noting that organizers changed that after the first year, when some more ambitious children left with a huge candy haul while others left with very little. “Instead, children gather eggs and return them to get their treat bag. That way, no one leaves empty handed.”
Reeves said organizers — the hunt is put on by the Cloquet Chamber of Commerce, Cloquet Community Ed and the city of Cloquet — gave away about 440 treat bags. She estimated attendance was at least double that, since the children were accompanied by parents, friends or other family members.
In addition to the colored eggs, the Easter Bunny hid a total of 42 golden eggs this year, 14 in each age group. Children who found a golden egg could trade it in for a special prize of their choosing.
Again, since the first egg hunt four years ago, organizers made even the golden eggs a little fairer.
“The first year, there were fewer golden egg prizes of much higher value,” Reeves explained. “Because of the large turnout, we decided to do more golden egg prizes of a little lesser value each to make the prizes go further.”
A number of local businesses and organizations donate candy, prizes and money to the event, including Up North Insurance Agency, USG Interiors, Frandsen Bank & Trust, Taco John’s/Steak Escape, Premiere Theaters, Members Cooperative Credit Union and the AGE to Age group.
Reeves said the weather for this year’s event was fantastic.
“It was dry, which was a huge plus,” Reeves said. “The past couple of years, the parking lot and the woods have been very soggy, muddy and messy.”
The Easter Bunny must have approved of the weather too, as he is a rather well-dressed white rabbit, after all.