As Great Bend prepared to celebate Easter weekend, a pair of events kicked the weekend off Saturday with boxes and barrels of sweet treats.
Hundreds of kids of all ages turned out in droves on a mild, sunny day for two local Easter weekend traditions, with both events returning this year after a year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kiwanis Easter Egg Hunt
In the morning, kids and parents lined up along the north side of Veterans Park along the walking trail for the annual Kiwanis Easter Egg Hunt.
Instead of scattering Easter eggs as in the past, volunteers from the Kiwanis Club scattered candy throughout the grass between the north and south trails. As in the past, an officer from the Great Bend Police Department sounded the siren to send the kids and their parents off through the grass hunting for candy.
With masses of young hands chasing candy treasures, the morning’s event took less than 20 minutes from start to finish.
One other difference from past years’ events was the implementation of some social distancing measures.
Participants were asked to stay in their vehicles until shortly before the hunt started, then were spread out over a larger swath of the walking trail in an effort to provide additional space between families. Kids were also grouped into several age groups.
Great Bend Kiwanis Club Secretary Barb Esfeld estimates the group has been putting on the annual event for more than 25 years, except for last year when the event was canceled due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Even though kids were more spread out, Esfeld was pleased with turnout for Saturday’s event and said it was comparable to past years’ events.
After missing a year due to COVID-19, she said the Kiwanis Club was happy to once again be able to host the event this year.
“It’s good for people to be able to get out and enjoy the public and the fresh air,” Esfeld said.
The club appreciated the chance to be able bring joy to area kids through the event.
“If we can do anything to (help) kids have fun and make memories, that’s what we like to do,” she said.
Beginning around 1 p.m., the First Assembly of God Church provided some “friendly fire”, launching blasts of candy from air “candy cannons” constructed by Great Bend’s Aaron Apley.
Children’s Pastor Dale MacKinney, who heads up the annual event, said the church used to put out plastic eggs for the event, but decided the candy cannons would be a better route.
“At one point I realized, kids aren’t there for the plastic eggs,” he said.
Aside from not having to figure out what to do with leftover eggs, MacKinney feels like the children have more fun watching the cannons fire off the candy.
MacKinney estimates the cannons fired off roughly 100,000 pieces of sugary sweets for this year’s event, which the church has put on for roughly 11-12 years by his recollection. The first couple years of the event, they held it at Great Bend High School’s Memorial Stadium, but since then it has been hosted at the church on South Patton Road.
For the event, kids were separated into age groups, to be able to spread kids out, and so smaller kids would not have to compete with bigger kids for candy.
MacKinney was grateful for the sunny, mild weather for the day’s festivities. Though the event has never been canceled for weather and is usually sunny, this was the first day he could remember they did not have to battle fierce Kansas winds during the event.
“God is good when it comes to the weather,” he said.
Because registration is required for the event, the church also entertained kids and parents waiting their turn for the candy blast with upbeat songs, games, and prize giveaways in the sanctuary prior to the event.
MacKinney said the event is a good way to reach people who may not feel comfortable attending Easter services.
“We just want people to know that our church really loves kids and families, and we’re willing to invest in those things,” he said. “We love the Great Bend community, and we just want to celebrate with them.”