Scrambling For Golden Tickets

By Jeremy Bubnick

Most municipal parks and recreation departments around the country host an annual Easter egg hunt for the children. Lake Jackson Parks & Recreation in Texas is no different; however, last year it was decided to offer something for adults as well. The first Adult Flashlight Egg Scramble was created.

The department certainly isn’t the first agency to offer such an event, and I won’t take any credit for the idea. As any great parks and recreation professional knows, there is rarely a time when it is necessary to reinvent the wheel. There is no shame in stealing, copying, or improving on someone else’s idea. The Adult Flashlight Egg Scramble was no exception.

I “borrowed” the initial concept from Lacey (Wash.) Parks & Recreation, and made changes to suit our facility, budget, and community. Hopefully, this article will provide some guidance on how to offer a similar event.

The First Year
In the first year we hosted the event we budgeted $2,800 for prizes, eggs, and supplies. With over $2,000 in prizes, we limited the ticket sales to the first 400 participants ($7 each). There was actually more than $4,000 in prizes thanks to donations, and the tickets sold out in one week! The 75 prizes included gaming systems, televisions, tablets, laptops, gift certificates, recreation-center memberships, outdoor gear, movie tickets, getaways, spa treatments, and much more! The most expensive prize was a $600 HDTV, and the least was a $10 gift card.

For those who have hosted (or attended) Easter egg hunts in the past, they are over almost as fast as they begin. While our event lasts about two hours, the actual egg hunting lasts only a couple of minutes. Participants start lining up at the gates even before 7:45 p.m., the official time for entrance. Only those who have purchased wristbands can hunt. At 7 p.m., music begins playing, and the field lights are turned on while food vendors sell treats. At about 8:15 p.m., we welcome everyone and remind the “adults” that we hosted over 500 children earlier in the day with no incidents. I also remind them that we are here to have fun, and there is to be no pushing, pulling, kicking, punching, poking, or fighting (in other words, play nice). Participants are to have their flashlights or headlamps ready because at 8:25 the lights will be turned off. At 8:30 sharp, an air horn sounds and the scramble begins. All of the 5,000 eggs have candy inside, and some eggs have a golden ticket with a number. Someone lucky enough to find a prize ticket is to proceed to the large picnic pavilion to claim a prize or prizes.

After the “dust settles” and the field lights are turned on, everyone reconvenes at the pavilion to distribute the prizes. From the stage the numbers on the winning tickets are called out, one by one. This is to avoid a mad rush of people trying to collect their prizes all at the same time. Also, this helps draw out the event and allows everyone to see who won what. As the numbers are called, we also thank any sponsor if the prize was donated. It takes about 30 minutes to award all of the prizes.

This Coming Year
We were somewhat surprised at the overwhelmingly positive response by the community, so this coming year we are expanding the event to 600 participants. In order to accommodate the larger numbers, we will utilize two fields (one for women and one for men). We plan to run both hunts concurrently; however, the start times can be staggered. If this event continues to grow, we may look at dividing fields into age groups and running the hunts at different times as well.

We have also raised the fee to $10 per participant in order to purchase twice as many prizes as in the first year. We will have 5,000 eggs and at least 100 prizes per field, so the odds of finding an egg with a golden ticket will be even better! We have operated at 100-percent cost recovery and spend all of the revenue on the event, which may actually become a fundraiser for our scholarship program in the future.

Planning
We start preparing for the event about six months prior by advertising in the Fun Illustrated (semiannual program guide). We begin purchasing prizes soon after Thanksgiving (taking advantage of holiday sales) and start soliciting for donations as early as January. Tickets go on sale about six weeks prior to the event. Admission tickets are wristbands and cannot be replaced if lost.

The event is run on the same day as our youth egg hunt, so once that event is over, we utilize the same stakes and ribbon for the adult boundaries. Setup takes about two hours.

 Keys to Success (What We Have Learned)

·         Be sure to have enough staff members for the setup and takedown, to keep participants behind the barricade ribbons, to check people in at the gates, to make announcements, and to distribute prizes.

·         The prizes should be good ones. If they are not of superior quality, people will leave unhappy and not return.

·         Keep the atmosphere lighthearted and fun. Nothing ruins an event like a fight or disagreement.

·         Make sure to plan for security on-site (so in case there is an incident, it can be dealt with swiftly). Also, plan for traffic control for arrivals and departures. This event must start on time so you don’t want people to be late due to traffic.

·         Don’t make the event too big for the first year. Make sure it runs smoothly. You can always expand on the initial success in subsequent years.

·         Select a location that will definitely get dark once the lights are turned off. Lights from an adjacent field or facility will keep the fields for the egg scramble lit (kind of a buzz kill).

I am confident that anyone can take what we do and improve upon it for their community. After all, “Why should the kids have all the fun?” If there are any questions about the event, suggestions for improving it, or other ideas for me to borrow, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jeremy D. Bubnick is the Parks & Recreation Director for the city of Lake Jackson, Texas. He has more than 22 years experience in the industry. He has a B.A. in Recreation Management from Eastern Washington University and is a graduate of the NRPA Directors School. Reach him at jbubnick@lakejacksontx.gov.