By JIM MISUNAS
Children’s Ministry Pastor Dale MacKinney was majestically transformed into the Pied Piper of Easter.
With a simple command, dozens of children listened to every inflection of his voice, waiting for the moment to dash for the Easter candy.
It was MacKinney’s time to shine during the seventh annual Big Cannon Candy Shoot sponsored by the First Assembly of God.
MacKinney said it’s difficult to count the children, similar to the dilemma Jesus Christ faced when the Gospel of John reported that five barley loaves and two small fish supplied by a boy were used by Jesus to feed a multitude.
In MacKinney’s eyes, there was plenty of candy for everyone. The youngest children started first and were followed by older children with temperatures reaching the 60s with a 20 mph south wind.
More than 100,000 pieces of candy were shot from two cannons. Other prizes were given away. Children from preschool age through sixth grade were invited.
Everyone had fun.
“I have no idea how many children we have here,” MacKinney said. “It’s hard to tell once you get everybody out here in the field.”
A second cannon launching candy sped the process and all the age groups were done within an hour. More than 60 volunteers assisted with the operation.
“The volunteers inside focus from noon to 1 p.m. inside and from 1 to 2 p.m. outdoors,” MacKinney said. “It’s taken us seven years to figure everything out. We learn a little something every year. This year, we drew lines and that worked better than using a circle we did last year. We’re always looking to tweak things here and there.”
The cannons utilized by the church are a work of art designed by AA Fishing Tool & Rental employee Steve Apley. He was watching the church’s Easter candy getting passed out a few years ago when he came up with a grand idea.
“I figured there was a better way,” Apley said. “I thought we could shoot the candy out of a cannon.”
Apley is accustomed to thinking about how to solve a problem. AA Fishing Tool & Rental deals with difficult situations such as open hole work with drilling rigs and pulling units, re-entries on plugged wells (milling and jarring), as well as the bullet-point items. AA Fishing Tool & Rental is located at 454 E. Highway 56, Great Bend.
After some brainstorming, Apley combined metal wheels from his father’s farm equipment, used oil rig equipment, PVC pipe, carbon dioxide tubes and plumbing equipment from Bentley Supply.
The PVC pipes that hold the candy are easily removed and reloaded. The pipes are held securely in place, but freed fairly easily.
“The whole process took several weeks, but once I got everything I needed, it was several days of concentrated work,” Apley said. “It’s been a lot of fun to help out.”
Saturday morning started with the annual Kiwanis Club Easter egg hunt at Veterans Park. The morning temperature started in the 40s. But children chasing their candy treats delighted parents and grandparents.