OMSP celebrates holiday with egg hunts, Spring Market, more

Published 5:10 pm Tuesday, March 26, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – Visitors to Oak Mountain State Park were treated with a host of Easter festivities during the OMSP Easter Egg Hunt and Spring Market held on Saturday, March 23.

Beginning early in the day, and running into the afternoon, people from across the state and local communities made their way to Oak Mountain State Park and found something for everyone as part of Saturday’s events.

“Here at the park we try to host three large events per year,” said Anna Jones, event coordinator for OMSP. “The first one is this, the Spring Market and Easter Egg Hunt.”

In addition to the fireworks show in July and the Harvest Festival later in the year, the park’s Easter holiday is among its largest heavy hitter events that regularly draw thousands to the park. This year continued in that tradition.

“It was incredible,” Jones said. “We definitely had a successful event, which we needed for the park—it was great. We saw very good, strong numbers as far as attendance goes.”

For the Easter egg hunt portion alone, the park now estimates that roughly 800 kids participated in the event.“In the morning, the first hunt started at 10 a.m. and we did them by ages so that we didn’t have any of the little babies (hunt) with some of the older kids,” Jones said.

The children were separated and organized into brackets based on their ages with groups ranging and made up of children from under a year old and up to 10 years old. Each bracket was able to participate in an egg hunt lasting 30 minutes that featured eggs filled with stickers and candy.

“My little nine-month-old daughter actually came out to do her first Easter egg hunt,” Jones said.

The egg hunts were first run in the morning with long lines of children ready and excited to take part, but all of the brackets were run again in the afternoon in case any visitors had missed the morning’s festivities. The last hunt for the day was opened to anyone who wanted to participate and provided anyone the chance to hunt for Easter eggs.

As part of the event, organizers also held a special egg hunt for puppies in attendance at the park by filling a number of Easter eggs with dog treats and allowing them and their owners the opportunity to also enjoy the day.

The egg hunt was not the only offering for the weekend however, with the park also hosting the Spring Market which ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There, visitors were able to locate a host of vendors that featured local honey, homemade cookies, baked goods, jellies, candies, clothing, books, toys, candles and other crafts from a collection of local artisans.

“The Spring Market vendors also had a great time and saw a great turnout,” Jones said. “We’ve already received a lot of ‘thank you’ emails from them.”

Limited to between 35 and 40 vendor spaces each year due to spacing, the market also successfully highlighted a wide sampling of local food trucks that served the crowds. Among them were Street Bowlz, Uncle G’s Pizza, Sunshine Lemonade, Urban Pops, El Campa Taco, Dixie Dogs, Temper Coffee and Crazy Good BBQ. Thomas Nails, a DJ with Blaze Entertainment, entertained the collected crowd with music throughout the full run of the market.

Outside of the market, the day also included a guided hike, a free yoga class and a large number of other activities that focused attention on the amenities and areas of the park.

“The pony rides also went off great and we had our partners with DCNR come out and offer casting clinics,” Jones said. “The introduction to archery was (also) a lot of fun. Kids loved the bounce houses and the Easter Bunny was great (too). Overall, it was just a really great and beautiful day.”

Events like this serve the park with a much-needed influx of visitors and bring guests in large enough number to help financially support the park.

“Because the park is not funded by taxes—we are a user pay system,” Jones said. “It is crucial for us to have people pay entry fees when coming through the gates. We are not able to survive at all if we do have those entry fees. Whenever we are able to create these types of events that draw people in, that is the lifeblood of our park.”

Jones further describes events like the Easter egg hunt and Spring Market as serving the overall mission of the park, which is the guided effort to get people outside and enjoying nature.

“We host things that are fun, structured and in safe settings for people to come out and see what Oak Mountain State Park has to offer—to see the beauty that is out in the park and look at all of the improvements that we have made,” Jones said.

By 1 p.m. on Saturday, ticket sales at the OMSP front gate had already exceeded $8,000. Those numbers support a guest count exceeding more than 4,000 guests for the day’s events. Although final numbers have not yet been determined and finalized, those numbers and other projections place the attendance at OMSP in a range nearing 5,000 people.

“Whenever we host events like this, we are hoping that it is a very gentle, soft and supported introduction to outdoor recreation,” Jones said.