It’s been nearly 50 years since the Olympia Eagles Aerie 21 first offered a chance for local kids to get a shot at some Easter fun.
But, it was the unfairness of childhood that first launched the Easter Egg Hunt and Priest Point Park.
Don Slade, an Olympia Eagle, was in attendance at another Easter Egg Hunt down at Capitol Lake in the late 1960s. In this hunt, all kids started at the same time. His reaction was that the hunt was unfair to the smaller children because only the faster, stronger, older kids had a shot at finding eggs. Slade would later become president of the statewide Eagles.
“Not a lot of little kids got a shot at eggs,” said Kayla Maxin of the Olympia Eagles, who has been involved with the Easter event for most of its history. Maxin has been on the planning committee, which includes Christine Swearinger, Corey Crawford and David Rashott, for the last seven years.
Slade and some other Eagles came up with the idea of separating the kids by age and launched the Eagles Easter Egg Hunt the next year at Priest Point Park. Now, kids are separated into four age groups, ranging from the youngest hunters all the way up to tweens age 12. There is an additional group for children with special needs, sponsored by South Sound Parent to Parent.
History of Priest Point Park
The park was purchased by the City of Olympia in 1906 after a protracted struggle with Thurston County, which at the time owned the property. The city ended up suing the county to prevent development of the site, and with combined public and private funds, bought the park.
Priest Point Park is by far Olympia’s largest and oldest park, and for a time was the city’s only park.
The Eagle’s Easter Egg Hunt predates the current orientation of the park. The one-way drive on the east side of the park, the parking lot on the west and the bridge connecting the two over East Bay Drive was finished a few years after the first hunt.
Hunting for Eggs over the Years
In the first year, a Rochester farmer donated the eggs and the City of Olympia provided free use of Priest Point Park. Today, the City of Olympia only charges the Eagles a nominal fee, but donations keep the event free to families.
In the early years it took volunteers from the Eagles up to three days to boil and decorate hundreds of real eggs for 200 or so kids.
“I remember coming downtown when I was a kid and dying eggs for days,” Maxin said who notes that now more than 1,000 kids participate in the free Easter Egg Hunt. “All those years, my hands would end up multicolored after all those eggs.”
Today, the Eagles have evolved to using around 21,000 plastic eggs stuffed with candy and prize tickets. Last year, the Eagles gave away a tablet, computer, and hundreds of toys to local kids.
“It is always chaos during the hunt. The kids get out there, and I’m always amazed by how they clean up the eggs so quickly,” said Maxin.
Olympia Eagles Volunteers
Fifty volunteers come together during the day to make sure the event is fun for all. “All of us get together to organize the event and it goes so smoothly,” said Maxin.
Only about one dozen cars fit in the parking lot at Priest Point Park. Historically, families have parked along East Bay Drive and walked to the hunt. This has caused some traffic congestion and irritated neighbors. But this year, the Eagles are offering a regular shuttle bus from the Swantown Marina parking lot at the nearby Port of Olympia. (Watch for directional signs.) Maxin recommends being at the parking lot by 1:30 p.m. to ensure plenty of time to get to Priest Point Park for the 2:00 p.m. start time.
The Olympia Eagles Aerie 21 dates back to 1899, a year after the first aerie was launched in Seattle. Since then, the club has donated millions of dollars back to the community, including $100,000 last year alone.
Maxin’s participation in the Eagles spans almost her entire life. “There is a lot of good that comes from this club, which is why I stay involved,” she said. “They are like my second family.”
2016 Easter Egg Hunt
March 27, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Priest Point Park
2600 East Bay Drive NE in Olympia