A breezy but pleasant morning, a miniature train, arts and crafts, games and an opportunity to have one’s picture taken with the Easter Bunny combined to provide a perfect setting for Easter in the Park, held Saturday (April 15) at Heritage Park.
A crowd estimated at “between 200 and 300” flocked to the park for the communitywide celebration. Some wore jeans and t-shirts; some wore dress-casual attire, and others wore their Sunday finery during the two-hour holiday-eve event.
“We’ve had a really good crowd,” said Sheryl Vickery, executive director of Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the free pre-holiday happening. “It’s a come-and-go event, so it’s hard to get an exact count, but it had to be more than 200.”
The get-together featured games, such as egg and spoon races, and an arts table from which intermittent breezes sent flyers, stickers and handfuls of glitter flying. Sparkling red, purple and green dotted many small faces as they made their way through the park.
Sidewalk chalk, as well as several containers of bubble mixture and numerous and varied bubble wands, drew the attention of the youngest attendees, and one of the most popular spots, especially as the clouds disappeared and the temperature rose, was the lemonade and cookies stand maintained by Youth Leadership Atmore.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” agreed YLA members Andrew Howell and Katelyn Barron as they handed out cups of liquid refreshment and store-bought confections.
A professional photographer snapped shots of children as they sat on the respective laps of a rotating group of volunteer Easter bunnies. Many laughed and tried to pull the bunny’s ears or whiskers; others expressed their displeasure through tears and wails and refused to be coaxed into smiles.
Mayor Jim Staff commented on the early weather, as well as the fact that several adults said they were unaware until this year of the event, which was being staged for the ninth year.
“It’s a beautiful day, just right for the children, and it’s a nice crowd,” said the mayor. “It doesn’t surprise me that some people didn’t know about it. When your children are too old or too young, you don’t know about things like this.”
Steve and Janet Shirley, who were trailing along with grandson Carson and granddaughters Savannah and Maddie, were prime examples of that.
“We are all having a good time,” said Janet Shirley. “We’ve never been to one. We didn’t have a reason, so we didn’t know what to expect.”
Selma resident Stoney Pritchett, who was in Atmore to visit relatives for the holiday, said he and his family – wife Stacie; daughters Stori and Sydni, and sons Dion and Dakaari – have been regular visitors to Easter in the Park.
“We’ve been to it the last six years,” he said as the group sought shade under a giant oak tree. “As a matter of fact, we’re from Selma and we come every Easter to hang out with the family. We really enjoy it.”
Vickery said it was obvious from the start that the event was destined to be successful.
“People were sitting in their cars, waiting, at 9:15 (15 minutes prior to the official start),” she said around 11 a.m. (half an hour prior to the announced end). “And they’re still coming. Everybody seems to have had fun, so I’d call it a success.”