A New Haven Green littered with paper wrappers and foil was cleaned in a matter of seconds by hundreds of eager New Haven residents Saturday. But it wasn’t an environmental cleanup, it was the annual New Haven Easter Egg Hunt.
The hunt saw children and older residents alike collecting plastic eggs filled with prizes and candy and meet some very special — and floppy-eared — guests. This year, WYBC radio signed on as a sponsor to join the city and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees.
The hunt was originally scheduled for April 12, but was postponed because of rain.
Event staff arrived at 7 a.m. to disperse candy on the green for children to find. Doc P from WYBC radio emceed the festivities, which began at 9. Clowns from Uncle Chip’s Entertainment led contests for the children, magic tricks, and games like tug-of-war. Children who participated were given books and toys as prizes.
“It’s all about having fun,” said Uncle Chip, the head clown of the eponymous entertainment group.
Before the hunt began, the New Haven Fire Department arrived with Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny. For some children, it was their first time meeting the happy couple.
Carol Brown of New Haven brought her son, Jeremiah, age 3, for the experience.
“He’s never seen the Easter Bunny up close,” she said. “Often you don’t see too many things that involve the community and the kids like this. It gives me a lot of joy. The kids enjoy this.”
Three-year-old Erik Lloyd said his favorite part of the day was sitting in the fire truck.
“[I was able to] drive the fire truck and blow the horn,” Erik said.
Firefighter John Hines said the department tries to get involved as much as it can with community events such as the egg hunt. Ten firefighters came along with Fire Commissioner Bill Selentano, Hines said.
“Whenever there is a ceremony on the green, we come out. At Christmas we bring Santa down, and today we brought down the bunnies,” Hines said.
The event was not only a community affair, but also a family affair. Sisters Jovonne and Chinise Pullen brought their parents and grandparents.
“I came out to have fun and eat candy,” Jovonne said.
New Haven resident Shaneila Gray said she usually attends the Easter egg hunt at her church but came to watch her nieces, she said.
Bill Dickson, of the city parks and recreation department, estimated 2,500 in attendance and said his staff was pleased by the hunt’s success.
“We were ready to have the hunt today because of the previous delay. Last week, I sat with $3,500 dollars worth of candy in my office,” Dickson said.
The extra week gave more time for the word to get out so more people knew about the event, he said.
The city government, the City Parks Department, WYBC, Bargain News, Tommy K’s Video and Gateway Community College teamed up to sponsor the event.
“Prizes in the eggs range from things such as Tommy K’s free rental cards, Popeye’s, McDonald’s and Wendy’s free meal tickets, and candy,” said Dickson. “We try to mix it up.”
Doc P, radio announcer for WYBC and promotions director at the station, led the festivities.
“This is the first time we’ve become involved with the event,” Dhe said. “Overall this has been a success for us. One of our missions is to connect with the New Haven community. Events like this help us to further do that,” he said.
Juan Castillo, program director at WYBC, said he strongly supports the radio station’s participation in the hunt.
“No other station in the country does as many community events as WYBC. We average six community events per month,” he said. “We’re committed as a station to the community. We’ve been here for 50 years.”
Uncle Chip said he has no doubt about his commitment to the annual hunt.
“I know we’ll be back next year,” he said.
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