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Saturday, April 23, 2011

“Hoppy” Spirits Prevail at Soggy Egg Hunt

“Hoppy” Spirits Prevail 
at Soggy Egg Hunt
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – They eyed the forecast updates, peered at the stormy skies and waited until the very last minute to decide if they were going forward or not.

Such was the challenge for members of the Green’s Farms Volunteer Fire Company when faced with torrential rain that threatened an annual egg hunt they were sponsoring early Saturday afternoon at Long Lots Elementary School, 13 Hyde Lane. Fortunately, Mother Nature showed some mercy and the event, though modified, went ahead, drawing a couple dozen children and their parents.

“My father, John, was the originator of the event, along with Mike Horn,” said lead organizer Michael Gudzik. “The first one, 60 years ago, was held at Green’s Farms School, until they started renovating it and we had to move it over to Long Lots.”

This was not the first time it had been rainy on the event day. “Two years ago, it rained,” said Carol Gudzik. “We had four families show, about 16 kids, and everyone went home with an Easter basket prize. You should see it when it’s not raining. You get the fire truck here with the Easter Bunny riding on it and the sirens going.”

Normally held on Long Lots’ ballfield, this year, because of the rain and mud, the event had to be restricted to the roadway in front of the school entrance. The Easter Bunny arrived by SUV and rain slickers and umbrellas were the norm for the day.

As is the custom, special Willie Wonka-like tickets are taped to select packages of candy and then the candy is gently tossed out onto the ground. Lucky kids that find the tickets amongst collected candy can redeem them for gift baskets containing toys, games and bigger items like basketballs and footballs.

“We had no choice about coming,” said Westport parent Fredrik Franke. “The kids really love it and remembered it from last year. We’re Swedish and they don’t have this tradition in Europe. Swedish kids do, however, dress up like witches the day before Easter and trick and treat like at Halloween.”

Another Westport parent, Todd Cooper, said, “Despite the rain, it seemed like it would be a good time, and beats sitting in the house. The kids have been watching the clock and talking about it since yesterday.”

As the first batch of candy was strewn across the road, Westport police officer Ashley Delvecchio, who joined the force last fall, sounded the horn in her patrol car to signal the first batch of kids to go scrambling after it. The officer said the event was a great opportunity to get the community together and celebrate the holiday. “This is my first Easter mission since I came on board,” she said. “It’s one of the more fun aspects of my job – seeing the kids and showing them that the police are friendly.”

Kids were released by age group, starting with two to three year olds, then four to six and so on. Their challenge was less “hunt” and more “gather”. In fact, the greatest obstacle the kids faced was having a basket or bag big enough to carry all their sugar-coated loot. Besides the egg hunt, they got to sound the sirens in Delvecchio’s patrol car and enjoyed supplied cups of ice cream that rewarded them for their efforts.

With regard to the rain, parent Mary Esser wasn’t even sure the event was going to happen initially, which is ironic as her son claimed not just one gift basket but two. “We were on our way to visit the grandparents, drove by and, sure enough, it was on. We’ve been lucky winners!”

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