An eggs-cellent tradition kept alive
MONTGOMERY – Since 1958 local children have enjoyed the annual ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ sponsored by the Montgomery Lions Club. Each year, scores of excited children show up at the park to pick up thousands of pieces of candy. Lion Gerald Ranck commented, “It begins at 1:00, and ends at 1:02.” He describes the event “like a vacuum” and says there is literally not one single piece of candy left to be found on the ground afterwards.
Despite the entire event beginning and ending so quickly, it takes nearly all thirty or so members of the Lions Club two months to plan and organize the event. Lion Norman Kobbe described the process by saying that raffle tickets are sold two months in advance as well as the day of the event to help cover the costs, with the hope of raising $1,200. The egg hunt is always held on the Saturday before Easter, and two weeks before the Lion’s Club orders between $750-$800 worth of candy from Miller’s in South Williamsport. The candy is delivered to the Lions Club Hall on South Main Street on the day of the event, where members of the club sort and divide thousands of pieces of candy into five age groups: 0-3 years, 4-5 years, grades 1-2, grades 3-4, and grades 5-6. Once the candy is sorted the Lions Club members transport it to the park and scatter it in designated areas, along with two prize eggs for each group. The only exception is for the 0-3 group, as some of the candy is kept back until after the event when club members walk around and make sure that the littlest participants all receive some candy.
After the Egg Hunt is over, the Lions Club begins the raffle ticket drawing with $260 worth of prizes. The top prize is $100, followed by a $50 prize, two $25, and six $10 prizes. If the raffle ticket sales result in more money than needed, some of the extra funds go to additional cash prizes while the rest is divided among different local charities. In addition to making a monetary donation to the scouts, the Montgomery Lion’s Club allows scouting groups to use their meeting hall.
Although ‘Egg Hunt’ has been held in a similar manner since its beginning, a few notable changes have occurred. One of the most dramatic is the cost of the candy. When the event began in 1958, the Lions Club spent 80 dollars on candy, which went a very long way in an era where a full-sized candy bar cost a nickel.
Fortunately, over the years the weather has almost always cooperated. In the 58 years since the Egg Hunt began, rain has only interfered twice. The first time was in the mid-1960s when candy was bagged up and handed out in the pavilion at the park, and the second time was in the early 1990s when candy was bagged up and distributed at the high school cafeteria.
Another notable change has been the prizes that have been given to the children who are fortunate enough to find a prize egg. For the past several years the prizes have been large chocolate bunnies, which seem to go over well with both children and parents.
In previous years, children have been rewarded with live animals. In 1962, the prize was a real rabbit, and in the 1980s colored baby chicks were given out. One year the prize was a pet duck, but it wasn’t popular with parents. Although the Lions Club has stopped giving out live animals, in 2000 Dick McHenry gave away pet rabbits to children as a kind gesture.
Today the Egg Hunt attracts between 200-250 children, and the littlest ones are mesmerized afterwards when the “real” Easter Bunny shows up. Towering at about six-and-a-half feet tall, his appearance was first made possible by Charlie Duchman who purchased the bunny suit about fifteen years ago and played the part for the first few years. Today, different Lions Club members play the part of the Easter Bunny.
Currently, the Lions Club is preparing for this year’s upcoming Easter Egg Hunt and they show no signs of slowing down. Undoubtedly, the Egg Hunt has become one of Montgomery’s most beloved traditions.