HELENA – On Sunday afternoon, the front lawn at the Montana State Capitol was covered with brightly colored Easter eggs. Hundreds of kids waited on the sidewalk until 1 p.m., when an airhorn kicked off the Helena Eagles’ annual Easter egg hunt.
The west side of the lawn was open to kids ages 6 to 10, the east side was for those 8 years old and younger, and the center was set aside for those who still have to crawl.
After a few frantic minutes, the hunt was over.
“They get through it pretty quick,” said Jim Horne, president of the Eagles Aerie #16. “There’s been years where there’s been so many kids, the egg hunt hasn’t lasted a full 45 seconds.”
6-year-old Sophia and 4-year-old Claire Wisemiller were among those rushing to grab eggs.
“They did pretty well,” said mother Haylie Wisemiller. “I would say our bag is almost too full for them to be able to carry.”
Organizers said the weather would be no obstacle to the Easter egg hunt. Haylie Wisemiller said her family wasn’t discouraged by the light rain.
“We were pretty much coming out no matter what,” she said.
The Eagles have been organizing the hunt for 90 years. The event was originally held at the Helena Civic Center, but it moved to the Capitol decades ago as it grew in popularity.
On Friday, volunteers spent the day at the Eagles Lodge coloring more than 14,000 eggs. It took several hours Sunday morning to get them all into place.
All together, Horne said it takes about 30 to 40 volunteers to put the event on each year.
“This is the culmination of hours and hours of work and a month of planning and getting things ready,” he said.
He thanked supporters like First Security Bank, which matched their prize money for the event. Several hundred “prize” eggs were marked with a stamp, meaning the kids who found them would receive $1. Two gold eggs were worth even more.
Both organizers and participants said the long history of the Eagles’ Easter egg hunt means a lot to the Helena community.
“We have a lot of parents that were doing this hunt themselves, so now their kids are doing it,” Horne said.
“It’s just an iconic place to be able to have an Easter egg hunt,” said Wisemiller. “I’m hoping we get to keep doing this every year. It’s a tradition.”
-Reported by Jonathon Ambarian/MTN News