COLUMBIA — A tiny cry sounded out from beneath the pavilion at Douglass Park.
"Turn around! You're not allowed to watch!"
The cry came from a group of three kids, patiently waiting for the start of Saturday's Egg Hunt Eggstravaganza.
"I wasn't! I was just looking."
They were the first children to arrive and were on the lookout, making sure their friends weren't watching where volunteers hid the candy-filled eggs. They sat with their backs to the playground, chattering about topics that had nothing to do with the upcoming Easter holiday.
While they waited, volunteers dispersed to hide the eggs around the park. Tateonna Thompson and Meghan Schwartzkopf, seniors at Rock Bridge High School, scattered eggs around the playground. Some of the eggs were hidden among flowers while others were in plain sight; colorful specks standing out among beige wood chips.
Kids age 4 and under hunted for eggs in the playground, while 5- to 8-year-olds hunted beside the baseball field and 9- to 12-year-olds went to the Jefferson Middle practice field.
"(The event) usually has a bunch of kids coming out," Thompson said. "It's really awesome."
The free event started at noon, but families trickled in as early as 11:30 a.m. Those who arrived early began with the coloring station, face painting and played games including pin the tail on the bunny and miniature golf. While the Parks and Recreation Department hosted the event, most of the games were staffed by volunteers.
Khloe Massey, 2, took advantage of the day's activities. The bright pink flower painted on her cheek matched the pink chalk she used to decorate the sidewalks. Her mother, Robin Massey, drove from Boonville to attend the egg hunt.
This Easter is special for Robin Massey, who is a midwife and had been called to work during two previous Easters. But this year, she said, she's able to spend the whole weekend with her children.
Her son, Camrin Massey, 6, stood on the sidelines before the actual hunt began at 12:45 p.m. A horn blared and kids burst from the sideline, collecting eggs as fast as they could. The hunt finished almost as quickly as it started; Camrin exited the field with a bucketful of candy-filled eggs.
"He could eat it all in one day," his sister Meagan Crane said.
Camrin nodded, staring at his colorful loot.
About 400 kids gathered at the park on Saturday. Camren Cross, supervisor of the event and recreation supervisor for the city, credited the turnout to the weather. Cross said it was the best weather he can remember for the event.
"People seem very thankful and said everything was great," Cross said.
Besides the egg hunt, children had the opportunity to win candy throughout the day. Some grabbed a few pieces after they won a relay race, where they had to balance an egg on a spoon. Others literally dove over each other as they reached for the gum drops that fell from a bunny-shaped piñata. Kids took turns hitting the piñata with a large plastic carrot, while a volunteer also threw candy onto the ground.
For Ka'Mel Silvey, 9, it's hard to pick a favorite part of the day. Her body was spotted with egg hunt war paint — a painted pink heart on her shoulder, a green musical note on one cheek and a blue and purple butterfly on the other.
"I was all over the field because there were so many eggs, so much candy," Silvey said. "I really wanted candy."
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.