Annual community event draws in crowds, but takes the support of dedicated volunteers to keep it running

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - The mEGGa Egg Hunt runs on the support of many volunteers and community donations. Organizers say last years egg hunt at the Columbia County Fairgrounds drew more than 3,500 visitors.

The annual mEGGA Egg Hunt is more than just an Easter egg hunt for candy tossed into a field.

It's a daylong activity that provides children the opportunity to participate in a coloring contest, take photos with costumed characters, pet animals, ride a pirate train, enjoy tasty treats, plant seeds they can take home, and much more.

Last year's egg hunt drew more than 3,500 visitors. For the past 18 years, Scappoose's Evelyn Hudson has been hosting the egg hunt at the Columbia County Fairgrounds as a free event for children to enjoy heaps of springtime activities.

She was inspired by an Easter festival hosted by Portland's Alpenrose Dairy, and thought she could offer something similar to children in her community that incorporated petting zoos, face-painting and more.

The event's success, however, has one critical component — volunteers.

One volunteer, Wendy Wilson, has gotten her whole family involved in the endeavor. Wilson lived in St. Helens nearly 20 years ago, just before Hudson started the mEGGa Egg Hunt. When Wilson returned to live in St. Helens with her two children in 2016, she heard about the egg hunt through a friend and started volunteering.

"I think what I like the best is just providing the opportunity for the children. It's just a way to give them something fun for free," Wendy Wilson said. "And [I enjoy] the way the whole community comes together to provide safe and fun activities for the kids."

When the Wilson family got involved, that's how the egg hunt found its "youngest volunteer," fourth-grader, Bricso. Hudson said Brisco and his sister, Daelyn, who is a high school junior, and Wendy attend the weekly volunteer meetings and have been involved in many aspects of the event.

Brisco said he enjoys getting to meet new people and travelling around with Hudson, who hands out fliers, info sheets and coloring contest entry forms in advance of the egg hunt. Daelyn also helps by dressing up as costumed characters.

Other volunteers, such as Rainier's Marcia Roberts, have put their own personal touches on the egg hunt. Every year Roberts crafts dozens of stuffed toys to be handed out as special prizes for children ages 0-3. This year, she's stitched together 50 colorful felt bunny rabbits and frogs.

On the day of the egg hunt, Roberts said she also helps hand out snow cones to visitors.

"Besides being the bunny fairy, I'm also the snow cone queen," Roberts joked.

As the event has grown, Hudson said it has been a challenge to keep up, but that also drives her to work harder to put on a quality event every year.

"We do have a lot of support. It is hard because the more we do this, the more we build our reputation. But we don't spend money if we don't have it. That drives us to go out and collect," Hudson said.

Hudson said the event started small, but has grown as other groups have gotten involved. Local 4-H groups have always been a huge help, Hudson explained, but the event now has more than 80 sponsors that assist financially or by providing needed supplies.

Volunteers, however, are at the core of the effort, assisting with tasks including contacting past volunteers for re-recruitment, collecting community supply donations, and staffing activity stations at the event.

Roberts has volunteered at the mEGGa Egg Hunt almost seven years now, and the tight-knit relationships with other volunteers is what brings her back each year.

"It's great. I love these people. We're family," Roberts said.

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