"We bought all these chocolate bunnies and did all this work," said Weehawken Recreation Director Chuck Barone. "It rained for three days prior to the event. We really had to wonder what we were going to do if it continued to rain."
But for some unexplained reason, the rain ceased and the sun shone brightly last Saturday, warming the 350 or so youngsters who flocked to Louisa Park on Boulevard East to participate in the 17th annual Easter Egg Hunt.
"It was a beautiful day," Barone said. "It was sunny and warm. We couldn't have asked for a better day."
"It rained for days before the hunt and for days after," Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner said. "But for that one day, it was beautiful."
It was a day that was enjoyed by all, including Nancy Jameson, whose two children, Eddie, age 6, and Alyssa, age 3, were looking forward to seeing the Easter Bunny once again.
"It's all they talked about for three days," Jameson said. "When are we going to see the Easter Bunny? When are we going to get the eggs? When are we going to get the candy? Over and over. When it was raining all those days, I was really worried that it would have been canceled, because then, I wouldn't know what to do."
Eddie and Alyssa Jameson were among the approximately 350 other youngsters, ages infant to 8 years old, in the pursuit of eggs that could lead to getting two-foot high chocolate bunnies.
Donna Daly has been the supervisor of the Weehawken Easter egg hunt for several years. The event has transformed into a labor of love for Daly, who begins preparing three months in advance.
The first and most important aspect of the day is securing the right chocolate. Store-bought bunnies just won't cut it. Daly orders more than 400 of the sweet rabbits from Bromilow's Chocolates in Little Falls, so each treat is 100 percent homemade.
"But in order to get the chocolate bunnies in time, you have to order them months in advance," Daly said.
Tickets are placed inside plastic eggs, and the lucky youngsters that find an egg with a ticket inside gets the bigger chocolate prize.
Even though the only kids who find the winning eggs get giant bunnies, all of the participants get regular-sized rabbits.
Daly then has to secure the services of the cast of characters that make appearances at the hunt, like the Easter Bunny (whose schedule is just a little tight just before the big day), Mr. and Mrs. Chick (whom the kids loved) and Clifford, the Big Red Dog.
"My kids aren't real big candy eaters, thank God," Jameson said. "They just have a lot of fun seeing the characters and looking for the eggs. They run around looking for the eggs, and Alyssa wanted to give the Easter Bunny a hug. It was just a great time."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner loved the reactions of the kids who participated.
"It's symbolic to the beginning of spring," Turner said. "The Easter Egg Hunt is a wonderful day. The children love it. It's a great time. It seems like a simple activity, but there's actually a lot of work involved."
The staff was busy Saturday morning turning Louisa Park into an Easter playland. Nearly 1,000 balloons were inflated and hung around the park. The eggs had to be placed strategically throughout the park, but not hidden so far out of plain sight that the kids couldn't find them.
Each child was able to find one egg - and they were able to see if they won a bigger chocolate prize.
"We had a sizeable crowd," Barone said. "The little kids really enjoy themselves, looking for the eggs. The staff really gets behind this event and everyone has a lot of fun. Every kid is guaranteed something. The kids have a great time and the workers have a great time. It's an event that is geared more for the little kids, which is good. And there isn't a competition involved. Everyone wins."
The organizers said that although the event takes a lot of work, the rewards are plentiful.
"When you see the kids get all excited and see the smiles on their faces," Barone said. "That's what makes it worthwhile. The smiles are worth thousands of dollars."
Turner said that the entire recreation department, as well as other township employees, deserves a lot of credit for running a successful event.
"It took a lot of work," Turner said. "Once again, Chuck's crew did an outstanding job. But the Parks and DPW (Department of Public Works) people had to work hard after a tough winter to get Louisa Park in tip-top shape. It all clicked. It turned out to be a nice day."
"It turned out to be the only nice day of the week," Barone said. "We were lucky."
Without the sun, then Barone would have had to deal with 400 soggy bunnies. And, honestly, who wants that for Easter?