Christopher Delaney was not alone in his joy last Saturday. More than 500 Weehawken youngsters got to feel the same kind of happiness as they participated in the township's annual Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Department of Recreation. The event was held at Louisa Park off Boulevard East.
The event has been a staple of Weehawken Recreation's annual calendar for the last 15 years, with its popularity growing every year.
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 500 of the sweet rabbits from Bromilow's Chocolates in West Paterson, 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. 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. Chick (whom the kids loved) and two other year-round favorites, Elmo and Clifford the Big Red Dog.
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.
Sun came out
By 9 a.m., Daly had one concern - the weather.
"I got a little worried when the skies darkened and it started to drizzle," Daly said. "But then it passed and the day turned out to be wonderful."
It also turned out to be a warm and sunny, which only enhanced the turnout.
Each child was able to collect one egg. Tickets were placed inside some eggs. The children who were fortunate to get a ticket were able to return those tickets in exchange for a larger chocolate bunny.
Grace Rodriguez brought her three sons, 9-year-old Michael, 6-year-old Stephen and 2-year-old Andrew, to the event.
"Michael got a kick out of hiding the eggs," Rodriguez said. "He's getting to the age where he likes to be sneaky. Stephen loved the whole day, with the characters and all. The day was more for him. Andrew was only concerned about getting the chocolate. He doesn't know about eggs and looking for them. He knows the chocolate. That's all he knows about."
And that's what little Andrew soon wore on his face and clothes.
Recreation director Chuck Barone said that the event is factored into the recreation budget "for a few thousand dollars."
"It's an event that gets a good turnout of kids," Barone said. "The kids absolutely love it. Every kid is guaranteed something. The kids have a great time and the workers have a great time."
The organizers said that although the event takes a lot of work, the rewards are plentiful.
"When you get to see how excited the kids get when they get an egg," Daly said, "it's just simple, old fashioned fun."
"It's always pleasing when you get to put smiles on the faces of the children," Barone said. "You get a big thrill out of it. It makes the whole day worthwhile."