LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Hundreds of children holding Easter baskets could hardly contain themselves as they lined the field at Adventure Park in Lakewood Ranch's Greenbrook village, eager to hear the announcement telling them they could run, dash or hobble around in search of small, pastel-colored Easter eggs filled with Tootsie Rolls and other candy treats.
The weather couldn't be more perfect Saturday for the 14th annual EGGstravaganza, the longest running egg hunt in Lakewood Ranch, hosted by Lakewood Ranch Community Activities for children from the wee age of 2 up to the tweens and their parents, who acted like big kids for the day. Over 13,000 eggs were scattered across the field and the nearby in-line skate rink, giving the little ones an opportunity to enjoy the thrill of scooping up as many eggs as possible.
Besides the egg hunt, which ended in a flash of little feet, children could enjoy a visit with the Easter Bunny, interact with animals in a live petting zoo, ride a pony, have their face painted, see balloons turned into art, and even take a peak at a big red fire truck driven by the local East Manatee Fire and Rescue team.
To add to all the spring festivities, proceeds from a themed Easter basket raffle went to the Florida Center for Early Childhood, a Sarasota nonprofit that helps support
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children and families with comprehensive therapeutic and educational services.
Six-year-old Ethan Apostolico and his father, Aaron, just moved into the Preserves in Greenbrook, and this was Ethan's first egg hunt at Lakewood Ranch.
"I've been to a few egg hunts before so I know how to go real quick. I save the candy until I want to eat it," he said, while tearing apart a wrapper for a Tootsie Roll.
Most of the parents, relatives and friends who accompanied the children to the EGGstravaganza said they were impressed with how well organized the event was and how many activities there were besides hunting for eggs.
Greenbrook mom Candice Carr is a fan of everything the Lakewood Ranch community has to offer and the convenience of living close by.
"It's really nice here, and what makes it great is I don't have to drive too far and I can walk to events like these," she said.
Mike Jones, "the balloon guy," as he calls himself, had a following of curious faces, wondering how he twisted and contorted the balloons into small animals,
"I've acted like a big kid all my life. The more fun you have with them, the more they enjoy it," Jones said.
Volunteer Laurie Russell, a nurse by day who was helping with arts and crafts, says she takes part in most every event sponsored by Lakewood Ranch, especially ones that are held for children.
"I love kids, and they're so creative, it's amazing to me. I've been doing this for years because it's so much fun, and when they have fun, I'm excited for them."