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Spring Party Brightens Willard Park at Easter

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Planet
Tuesday April 26, 2011 - 11:09:00 AM

About equal numbers of young children, parents, and digital cameras flooded into Berkeley’s Willard Park on Saturday, April 23, to participate in and record the City of Berkeley’s annual “Egg Hunt Extravaganza”. 

Carefully classified as a “Spring” (not Easter) celebration, the event was staffed by a busy and smiling contingent of City of Berkeley Parks and Recreation staff. 

Activities included a “Kid Carnival” with games, arts and crafts, face painting, classes in dancing the “Bunny Hop” and a chance to be seen with the “Spring Bunny”, a large, white and pink creature who wandered through the crowd with a handler, a basketful of candy, and a penchant for posing for pictures. 

By late morning the Park was filled with celebrants, some in colorful costume, others in daily attire. There was no Easter Parade, but rather a kaleidoscope of activities. No rain either. 

The northern half of the large Willard lawn was reserved as an “egg hunt” area with carefully planned schedules for each age group. “One year old and younger” got to go at 10:30, eight to ten year olds had to wait until 11:45. 

It wasn’t so much a hunt, really, as a scattering of hundreds of plastic eggs and other colorful, small, objects on the open grass but all the participants seemed to be pleased as they rushed happily about. City staffers went about tossing out handfuls of extra eggs as freely as parking tickets. 

To bring you, dear readers, an accurate account of the proceedings I investigated a couple of overlooked eggs. They contained not candy but small toys. City staff had also placed bins around with signs encouraging participants to recycle the plastic eggshells. 

$5 bought each child a colorful straw basket and a wristband to participate in the games and events. 

One of the more popular activities was a small petting zoo set up under an oak tree at the edge of the lawn. Within the wire enclosure there were ducks, little chickens, a tiny pig, a young miniature goat, multiple and multicolored rabbits, and an enormous rooster. Children were let in a few at a time. 

The rooster, one of the petting zoo staff said, was a rose Cochin, four months old. He looked like the largest animal in the pen and stalked about regally. Around 11:00 am he started to crow, the perfect Saturday wake-up call for Berkeley residents needing a reminder that it was time to go to brunch. 

The little pig wandered around wagging its tail, the goat looked adorable, and the bunnies did rabbity things including nibbling on the lawn. At one point a little black and white spotted bunny climbed on the back of a much bigger brindled rabbit. 

The brindle was not accommodating. The spotted one persisted. The brindle dashed away, setting off a short bunny stampede through the enclosure. 

Near the pets, Berkeley fire engines and their crews also took turns posing for pictures and letting children climb carefully on the apparatus. 

The digital camera dictated the day. Each child came away from the event with a couple of dozen pieces of candy or prizes, and each parent probably had a couple of hundred photographs. It was not uncommon to see one adult accompanying a child and the other chasing behind (or running ahead) to get the best picture. 

On a historical note, Berkeley Easter / Spring events go back a long way. In the 1920s and 30s real eggs were decorated and collected for a mass hunt in Codornices Park. 

Bonus activity; see how many times you can spot the “Spring Bunny” in the accompanying pictures.