Tradition returns: Easter egg hunts return in full force | Messages

As more people shed their winter clothes heading into spring, event organizers in Columbia County plan to bring back a much-coveted Easter tradition.

In St. Helens, organizers have redesigned the mecca of all Columbia County Easter events.

The traditional mEGGa egg hunt has drawn thousands of people to the Columbia County Fairgrounds in St. Helens each Easter.

In 2018, mEGGa Egg Hunt attracted around 3,500 participants to the Columbia County Fairgrounds. According to Mega Egg Hunt CEO Heather Epperly, coordinating the event requires “a lot of logistics.”

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Last year’s traditional mEGGa Egg Hunt at the Columbia County Fairgrounds was held as a drive-thru event due to the pandemic.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, the 22-year-old’s egg hunt extravaganza included a petting zoo, face painting and pony rides, among a wide range of other kid-friendly activities. This year the organizers had to scale back the spectacle.

“This year, of course, we’ve stepped back a bit,” Epperly said. “We’re hoping that next year we can bring back the face paint and the food stalls and some of the other things that come with our events. But this year we are just happy to have a hunt.”

Epperly outlined some of the specific challenges she and her board faced in coordinating the egg hunt for April 16, 2022.

“As we went into it, we were trying to decide which route we were going to take, whether we were going to do a full-time event or a drive-thru event like we had done before,” she said. “We have tried to decide what is available to us. When it became obvious that restrictions were starting to lift, we just didn’t have enough time,” she said.

According to Epperly, most of the preparation for mEGGa hunting takes place “six months to a year” in advance. Although the COVID-19 regulations have now eased, the organizers had to prepare for all eventualities and lost the necessary time to show a larger display, which is characteristic of mEGGa events.

“It’s been really difficult this year to figure out what we can and can’t do,” Epperly said.

According to Epperly, this year organizers had to shorten the time allotted for the egg hunt, allowing the event to run from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. instead of the usual 9 a.m. to 1 p.m

However, families can look forward to a wide range of children’s activities being reintroduced this year, such as: B. the painting competition, the scavenger hunt and the hunt for prize coins.

“We’re going to put up little bunny pictures at the faire for the kids to find and they’ll have a little piece of paper to mark on (when) they find the different ones,” Epperly said. “Then turn in the hand and we’ll draw the winners at random.”

The Chronicle asked Epperly why she thinks mEGGa has become an ingrained tradition in Columbia County.

“Evelyn Hansen is the mastermind that came up with this event and this is our 22nd year of running this event,” she said. “She ran it alone for a long time. Her main thing was that she wanted to have a free event that families could come and attend,” she admitted, “it’s grown over time.”

Epperly said she’s new to the event, having joined the board in 2018, but, “Once you start doing this,[mEGGa]kind of sucks you in.”

Epperly said one of her goals in the coming years is to make mEGGa more inclusive for children with special needs.

Debbie Ritthaler, Special Education Volunteer and co-organizer of mEGGa, is responsible for the special needs areas of the mEGGa hunt.

Ritthaler said that she and her husband find great joy in watching children of different abilities join in the fun.

“It’s just great to see that they can participate and do things with the other kids, but in a safe environment for them,” she said.

For this year’s mEGGa egg hunt, Epperly needs around 15 volunteers who will perform various tasks, including greeting and saying goodbye to guests at the exhibition center and supervising the egg hunt.

She said finding volunteers was a challenge.

“We get a lot of people who want to display the candy. A lot of people just want to show up during the day and bring candy to the fields,” she said. “Finding volunteers is probably the hardest part of the whole thing.”

According to Epperly, each year the Megaga Egg Hunt is supported by an enduring network of sponsors, allowing children and families to participate for free.

According to Epperly, the egg hunt is an opportunity for working parents to “have fun and not worry.”

“Often parents are on a tight budget and avoid events thinking, ‘Oh, my kids are going to ask to go on this ride and we can’t afford it.’ Something like that makes them come and feel comfortable,” she said. “You do not have to worry.”

The Clatskanie Kiwanis Club is hosting its annual Easter Egg Hunt, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, on April 16 at 10:00 a.m. for three different age groups aged 2-5, 6-8 and 9 and up on the Clatskanie High field School .

Rainier Eagles #4022, a local arm of a national charity, will also be holding its version of the event, the citywide Easter Egg Hunt, on April 16 at 10 am.

The mEGGa Egg Hunt takes place at the Columbia County Fairgrounds at 58892 Saulser Road in St. Helens.

For more information, call 971-312-4743.

About Gloria Skelton

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