The children running around Portland’s Payson Park on Saturday morning each had a big decision to make – go for as many brightly colored Easter eggs as they could find or aim for the golden eggs.

The hundreds of regular eggs, laid out in a lacrosse field at the park, were tempting enough. Their plastic shells contained candy or small toys.

But the golden eggs – all 175 of them – could be exchanged for stuffed animals, arts-and-craft kits, small footballs and bigger toys.

Hannah Scully, 5, opted for both. She collected about a dozen regular eggs and then held aloft one golden one, which she took to a booth and swapped for a blue stuffed animal, species indeterminate.

Children dart from the starting line during an egg hunt on Saturday at Payson Park in Portland. The event was capped at 400 kids. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

After holding it for less than a minute, it was clear that it quickly earned a place in Hannah’s heart.

Teddy Balfantz, 8, of Portland, leaps across the finish line during a sack race on Saturday at Payson Park. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“It’s my very favorite stuffy,” she said.


The Easter egg hunt, a first for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, came to Portland via Berwick, where Angela O’Connor had run that town’s recreation department. Now the assistant recreation director for Portland, O’Connor said it’s the kind of event that fits in well with the department’s mission this year – to get people out and enjoying the city parks again, with the COVID-19 pandemic fading.

“We’re trying to bring more community events to the park,” she said.

“Hunt” was something of a misnomer. With the eggs all out in an open field, it involved less searching than racing other children to the eggs.

O’Connor said the Easter egg hunt cost about $2,000, with some of the expense defrayed by sponsors Norway Savings Bank and Tater’s CSA, a community-supported agriculture program run by a New Gloucester farm.

Chloe Corliss, 1, of Portland strides with determination toward a plastic egg and a packet of candy. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

O’Connor and a few volunteers arrived shortly after 6 a.m. to begin setting out the eggs and then checked in the children, who were registered earlier online. Attendance was capped at 400 to make sure there were enough eggs to go around.

Parents, with kids in tow, said having the Easter egg hunt with hundreds of other children in a large park was a good way to build up excitement for their own egg hunts, planned at home for Sunday morning. And the weather was cooperative, with clear blue skies and temperatures in the 40s.

O’Connor said the event put a smile on her face because it filled the park with excitement for hours Saturday.

She said it also serves as something of a curtain-raiser for park season in Portland. It will be followed by a tree-hugging – seriously – that’s scheduled for Deering Oaks on May 20.

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