Monday, March 29, 2010

The Great Algona Easter Egg Hunt--Or, How to Piss Off the Mayor

When I first got into the Chamber of Commerce business I moved to the smallest city I’ve ever lived, Algona, Iowa, population 6000. I moved there in late March just in time to help with planning one of the more enjoyable events sponsored by the Chamber each year—the annual Easter Egg Hunt the day before Easter.

This particular event was conducted by a group within the Chamber called the Salesman’s Bureau. It was composed of sales people who spent most of their time away from home. It met monthly on a Saturday in order to get caught up with what was going on in town, enjoy a bit of camaraderie and plan a couple of events—the other main event this group did was a golf outing in the summer we dubbed the Herb Tarlek Open in honor of the salesman from WKRP Cincinnati.

We spent months working on the Easter Egg Hunt including lining up groups of Scouts to dye the 2000+ eggs we got donated from a couple of area farms, getting donated toys from some of our
local stores, making sure the local state park was reserved and otherwise just tying up details.

The date of the event started with a breakfast in the shelter at the park—eggs, sausage, biscuits and Bloody Marys. After breakfast we made sure that the areas for the egg hunting age groups were roped off and that an appropriate amount of eggs were placed in each. Prizes were laid out and extra eggs were put aside for us to make sure that kids who weren’t otherwise able to find an egg “found” one with a bit of help from one of us. What we really wanted to have happen was for the kids to have fun.

Cars started to arrive rapidly filling available parking and stretching down the gravel road leading into the park. We started to usher the kids to their areas broken down by age group. It just wouldn’t do for a toddler to be run over in a stampede of older kids so age segregation was strictly enforced. We also handed out paper bags to the many kids who arrived without Easter baskets to put their goodies. Now, as the rest of this story unfolds remember those 2 key items—stampede and paper bag.

People would come from literally all over our area—some as far as 20 miles for the Annual Easter Egg Hunt. It was heavily promoted on our local radio station for a couple of weeks ahead
of time. It wasn’t unusual to have 500 kids attend along with parents, grandparents, etc.

The hunt was set to begin at the stroke of 10 a.m. The Mayor of our small city would ceremoniously fire a gun (blank cartridge) to get the organized mayhem started.

Everything was in place. Using the P.A. system from a police car, the mayor was introduced and made a few introductory remarks. I was walking to the edge of the crowd after a last check of one of the search areas and handing out paper bags. I was down to my last paper bag.

The mayor held the starter’s pistol held overhead.
I was wondering what to do with the last bag.
The mayor started a countdown.
I held the bag up to my mouth.
The mayor’s countdown reached 5.
All the kids were poised in anticipation.
I blew into the bag and proceeded to slam it down into my other hand at the same instant the mayor’s count reached 3.

Looking up I immediately realized what I had done. The mayor’s face was frozen in a grimace at hearing the loud pop just as he said 3. The kids all started to surge forward even though many were unsure because the pop of a paper bag and of a blank from a starter’s pistol don’t quite sound the same.

It was literally like on TV when something happens and the action immediately goes into slow motion—and the word Noooooooooooooo reverberates. (Or more aptly when Ralphie is helping his Dad change the tire and the Dad knocks the hubcap with the lug nuts flying and Ralphie says “Oh fuuuuuudddgggeee”).

The kids bolted. The mayor jolted. He never fired off the gun. All the eggs got found. The kids had a great time. The rest of the Salesman’s Bureau laughed until they had to hold their sides. I was totally embarrassed at having done something so idiotic. And the Mayor never forgave me.

Have a wonderful Easter.

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