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GCAO egg hunt fills Blue Heron Park

Mar. 25—MOSES LAKE — Grant County Animal Outreach got a jump — or a hop — on the holiday by holding its Easter egg hunt last weekend.

"We knew a lot of our staff and the people that were going to be helping us were going to be gone this weekend having Easter with their own families, so that's why we chose to do it the weekend before," said Kar Vanerstrom, vice president of GCAO.

About 1,000 people turned out at Blue Heron Park in Moses Lake for the event, Vanerstrom said. GCAO staff and volunteers had hidden about 7,000 plastic eggs, some of which had slips of paper inside that could be turned in for $100 and $50 bills.

The local fauna made the indirect approach necessary, Vanerstrom said.

"Last year the squirrels ran off with the eggs," she said. "It was so cute. They would run up in the trees and smack the egg on the tree ... (But) one of the eggs the squirrels ran off with had the $100 in it. It was like, 'Well, that's gone.' It was a live-and-learn. So this year we did little pink slips and had them bring them to me. When they opened their eggs and saw that they got it, the smiles on those little kids' faces were great."

Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteered as anti-squirrel security, she said. A few squirrels succeeded in making off with eggs, but none of the big prizes were lost, she added.

The huge turnout created some parking headaches, Vanerstrom said. The The parking lot filled up quickly and people were parking on the street for blocks around, and the exit off I-90 was backed up for a while, she said.

The weather looked like it wasn't going to cooperate, Vanerstrom said, but miraculously, it did.

"My husband was up at 2:30 in the morning stuffing eggs and he said, 'It's just pouring down rain outside,' she said. "And I said, 'It's OK, it's gonna stop for our Easter hunt, and then it'll start right after. And I couldn't believe it, that's exactly what happened.

Several staff members dressed in costume, Vanerstrom said. There were a couple of Easter bunnies and an Easter egg in attendance, and Vanerstrom herself wore a dog costume. The hunt was sectioned off for different age groups, with a $100 prize and a $50 prize in each section, as well as $2 bills and Susan B. Anthony $1 coins, and, of course, lots of candy.

The event was only possible because of a long list of volunteers and community donors, Vanerstrom said.

"We just had a bunch of people step up and then even afterward, a bunch more people stepping up and (saying), 'We want to help next year and make it even bigger.' And I'm thinking, 'Wen the bell goes off at 10 o'clock and that wave of kids comes down the hill, it's kind of scary.'"

Joel Martin may be reached via email at jmartin@columbiabasinherald.com.