At noon-sharp last Saturday afternoon, a group of squirming kids in Calumet Park shuffled outdoors for the annual Easter egg hunt. A grassy area was smattered with polychromatic splotches of color that only PAAS egg dye could elicit, and the hunting grounds were marked off with yellow caution tape. A coordinator laid out the rules: hunt in your age group, don’t be stingy, and bullies are automatically disqualified.
Donning a butter-yellow sweater, 10th Ward Alderman John Pope stepped to the front of the crowd and raised a megaphone to his mouth. “On your marks…” Tension in the air rose as parents pushed their kids to the front of the pack. “Get set…” Children clutching baskets and adults with camcorders froze into position. “Go!” The floodgates burst and kids surged forward to gather their loot. Parents took the liberty to coach their kids from the sidelines. “Over there, Danny–look over there!” a parent yelped, jabbing frantically with his index finger toward an overlooked egg as his dazed three-year-old toddled by.
The egg hunt has been an annual tradition in Calumet Park for over a decade. The event is sponsored by the South Chicago, East Side, and Hegewisch chambers of commerce and the 4th district police department. South Chicago Parents and Friends, a non-profit organization for developmentally disabled adults and children, helps out too: some of the organization’s participants decorate the eggs for the hunt.
Although the holiday is sometimes eclipsed by marshmallow treats and pastels, Calumet Park’s event was no hollow chocolate bunny. “A lot of these families can’t afford Easter baskets for their kids,” Alderman Pope explained. “We want to stress that Easter is more than the eggs and lots of candy; we don’t want to force anything spiritual on them of course, but we really want to stress the importance of respect for faith, family, and the community.”
Of course no egg hunt would be complete without an appearance from the Easter Bunny himself. Luckily, he was available for comment. When asked if he was ready for Sunday’s big day, he responded with a gruff, “Yeah.” He paused to take a picture with a pair of siblings. “I am dripping with sweat,” he added in a muffled voice, tugging uncomfortably at his plush pelt.