MEXICO – Tradition wasn’t waylaid on Saturday morning by predicted rain or the chilly mist hanging over the Androscoggin River behind the fire station.
Gathered there in increasing numbers was a crowd of parents and children, many 6 years old and younger. They were there to find 125 plastic Easter eggs hidden among several large multicolored Easter bunny cutout props, as well as around the area.
One per child, explained Capt. Jim McDonald, three minutes before 9 a.m. That’s when a fire truck siren suddenly blasted. The hunt was on. Excited children, some dragging parents along, ran for eggs, while other parents walked with their children to help search.
The main hunt was mostly over within 20 minutes. After finding an egg, each child returned to the station, handing it to a pink Easter bunny or Sparky, the fire department’s Dalmatian mascot. The costumed duo exchanged colorful gift bags of toys and candy for the eggs.
Meanwhile, a much larger hunt was under way, having started at 6 a.m. Another 125 Easter eggs had been hidden in the River Valley Area Chamber of Commerce’s 10 towns: Andover, Byron, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Hanover, Mexico, Peru, Roxbury, and Rumford.
Clues were available at the station from new chamber administrator Scott Galbiati and chamber representative Barbara Belanger. Clues were also given out over radio station WOXO.
Like eggs from the young children’s hunt, numbered eggs from the 10-town hunt had to be returned to the fire station to be redeemed for gift bags.
By 7 p.m., two of the five hidden eggs in Andover were unfound, as were two eggs from Hanover and one egg each from Roxbury, Carthage and Rumford Center. People had until 10:30 a.m. to return the eggs.
Hunt organizers, the Mexico Fireman’s Relief Association and chamber, had help from 200 sponsors.
Galbiati estimated that the events attracted 500 adults and children.
“It’s a good family event. Those are hard to come by nowadays,” he said.
“I used to do it when I was a child, so, this has gone on forever,” Belanger said.
“It’s just a tradition that has gone on for generations. It’s a fun thing,” she added.
At 1 p.m. Saturday under darkening skies from an advancing thunderstorm, about 35 children participated in the second annual Easter Egg Hunt at the Bear River Grange Hall in Newry.
The event was sponsored by the town and Oxford County’s Mystery 4-H, a University of Maine program.
Older 4-H youths ran two hunts, one in a grassy field beside the hall, the other behind it on a wooded hillside. Children could collect as many candy-filled eggs as they could find, but only one metallic egg, which could be redeemed for a prize.
Mystery 4-H club leader Leslie Bonney of Newry said after the event that more children participated this year than last, searching for 150 eggs.
“Hopefully, if we keep doing it, we can grow the crowd,” she added.