NAPPANEE — Long before anyone puts on their Easter best, the staff at Amish Acres is prepping for the pastel-colored crowds.
It all starts in early March, when workers at the tourist attraction fill 1,500 plastic eggs with candies and chocolates in preparation for the massive egg hunt Easter Sunday.
Richard Pletcher, founder and CEO of Amish Acres, said he has seen anywhere from 100 to 200 kids participate in the egg hunt,which is held in the establishment’s courtyard. The kids are broken up into three age brackets before they make the mad scramble for goodie-filled eggs.
The eggs are filled with treats such as Tootsie rolls, caramels and chocolate eggs, explained program director Becky Cappert. In each age bracket, there also is one gold and silver egg with a gold and silver dollar inside.
But the Easter egg hunt is just one of the many activities at Amish Acres on Sunday, and Pletcher said the staff has been busy preparing for about 1,500 people who are expected to show up for an Easter meal between 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The staff started food preparation Wednesday to make a dent in the 200 pies, 400 pounds of turkey, 400 pounds of ham, 400 pounds of beef, 200 loaves of bread, 25 dozen cookies and 70 pounds of noodles needed for the Easter feast.
They will be working up until Sunday for the first busy day of the season, Pletcher said. The attraction was closed for January, February and most of March.
“Ninety percent of the kids in the Easter egg hunt are here with their parents having dinner. They have to plan their dinner around the fact that the Easter egg hunt starts at 1 o’clock. They either dine before or dine after,” Pletcher said.
The youngsters will get to meet the Easter Bunny and participate in a scavenger hunt and a coloring contest. Families can also get a professional photo taken with live bunnies.
After the kids are done collecting the plastic eggs, they can return them for a free chocolate-covered marshmallow.
Cappert said she enjoys seeing the kids hunt for the eggs and when they finally get their marshmallow.
“They just get this glimmer in their eye. They try to spot the golden egg and the silver egg before anyone else can find it,” she said. “They get that marshmallow, and it’s just the best thing.”
The focus of Easter is to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, Pletcher said, but it’s also way to celebrate the arrival of spring.
“There is this secular side of Easter that isn’t equally important, but it is important and it comes from thousands of years of tradition of starting spring,” he said. “It’s the announcement of new birth, so why wouldn’t eggs be the perfect thing to use as a symbol as that?”
Dressing up and finding eggs is part of the tradition, Pletcher said, and one he looks forward to.
“The Easter Bunny will actually be giving some little prizes to little girls that actually wear Easter bonnets,” he said. “It’s become a lost tradition. We’re trying to re-create it one way or another.”