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Massive egg hunt gets scrambled in Capitol area

Rich Smith of Sacramento, center, helps his son Charlie gather plastic Easter eggs Saturday at the state Capitol. The nonprofit Blue Heart International tried to set the record for the largest egg hunt in the world with 510,000 eggs.
Rich Smith of Sacramento, center, helps his son Charlie gather plastic Easter eggs Saturday at the state Capitol. The nonprofit Blue Heart International tried to set the record for the largest egg hunt in the world with 510,000 eggs. rbenton@sacbee.com

Thousands of people packed Sacramento’s Capitol grounds on Saturday for what was billed as the world’s largest Easter egg hunt. The crowds vying for eggs dumped out on the Capitol Mall grass resulted in some shoving and arguments.

Organizers had trucked in 510,000 plastic eggs in an attempt to break the current world record of 501,000 eggs from a 2007 hunt in Florida.

As soon as the first eggs hit the ground, people of all ages lunged for the colorful plastic shells, scooping them up by the armful into oversized plastic bags and even laundry baskets. The dozen workers from organizer Blue Heart International, a Sacramento nonprofit, had intended a more orderly rollout, with egg seekers waiting for the signal to start.

Toddlers cried and parents pushed as they jockeyed for mostly empty plastic eggs, which later could be exchanged for candy.

“It’s really ridiculous,” said Michelle Rodriguez, who paid $140 for her seven children to participate in the VIP portion of the hunt, in which some of the eggs were stuffed with coupons for free food. “Parents are literally pushing other people out of the way.”

At one point, multiple parents argued over whether adults should be permitted to help out their kids.

Blue Heart, a year-old organization, held the event to raise money and draw attention to itself, said CEO Blake McCall. The group helps victims of human trafficking.

McCall declined to disclose how much money was generated by the hunt, but said it was “way more” than Blue Heart’s expenses for putting it on. About 7,000 tickets were sold for the VIP portion of the hunt on the mall.

Sold for $20 each, the tickets generated at least $140,000. McCall said buying the 510,000 eggs cost $10,000.

Many attendees complained about the chaos surrounding the event. No barricades were used to prevent people from prematurely collecting the eggs, and organizers did not verify whether parents had tickets for the VIP hunt. A separate, free egg hunt took place nearby on the grounds of the Capitol.

“It was crazy,” said Kori Houser, whose toddler Chase picked up only three eggs. “Adults were trampling over us.”

Trisha Pickerel, a Blue Heart board member, was yelling at the top of her lungs asking everyone abide by an “honor system” to no avail. Later, as parents complained, she replied, “We can’t control other people.”

As for breaking the record, the event failed because the eggs arrived only two days before, past the deadline for Guinness World Records certification. McCall blamed a shipping delay.

Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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