Twenty minutes ahead of April 11th’s scheduled 8 a.m. start time, early arrivals from as far away as Eugene filed in. Locals, seven-year-old Trever Morgan, and four-year-old Constance Livingston, registered, and awaited their turns to begin hunting.
Some families had read of the event in a prior week’s edition of the Independent, spreading the word well-beyond Sams Valley’s borders. Grandparents brought little ones who’d come to visit their Upper Rogue area homes for Easter Weekend.
“Are all the eggs hidden?” Bobbie Rainey asked daughter Chloe Ellis who’d reinvented a unique twist on this long-beloved tradition. “I’ll check in the hay barn,” Ellis replied, unsure whether “the Bunny” had anticipated the early-comers.
Ellis happily noticed six foster daughters of Sams Valley residents Jennifer and Scott Rice, had taken their posts as “Bunny’s helpers” at Rainey’s Corner Market. Ranging in age from 11 through 16, Tanisha, Daneva, Carrie, Marissa, Crystal, and Kyrie toted boxes of prize-filled, plastic eggs to the hay bales. “The girls volunteered their time to help out here today,” foster mom, Jennifer Rice, said. “This is a blast for them.”
These assistants also climbed the bales, and guided youngsters whose quests included gathering several colorful, inedible eggs they’d trade for prizes.
Inside the hardware store section, Robin Debounce wielded a clipboard on which she recorded names of eager participants. Once on the list, they’d wait to be called individually for their turns as seekers.
“Easter Egg hunts are usually ‘free-for-alls,'” Ellis observed. “With so many kids of different ages and sizes scrambling, some get many; others find none, and leave disappointed. With this method, everyone wins something.”
Not only did the eggs contain surprise gifts, they also had trade-in value. “The finders can exchange them for a brightly-colored live chick, a stuffed animal, or a candy basket,” Bobbie Rainey said.
In the group of first registrants, pre-schooler Constance Livingston decided on a stuffed animal. Intrigued by the living chicks, Trevor Morgan chose one in blue, his dad’s favorite color. “This is the happiest day of my life,” the boy said.
Rainey employee, Brian Debounce described how the chicks attained those hues. “The hatchery in Cameron Texas that we get them from, dyes them inside the eggs while they’re still incubating.”
“Those colors last until they get their first new feathers,” added Bobbie Rainey.
Although chicks proved to be the most-requested prizes, not all parents or grandparents could accommodate their youngsters’ wishes for live future-hens or roosters. Some had to opt for their second choices.
By the 10 a.m. close of festivities, all of the several hundred children had won souvenirs of an unforgettable Easter time from Rainey’s.
By F. C. Blake
Of the Independent