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EASTER EGG RUSH: Hundreds gather eggs at annual event in Nevis

Hundreds of children turn out each year for the annual Nevis Easter Egg Hunt held in Muskie Park along the Heartland Trail. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)1 / 7
Eight-year-old Arionna Matteson, left, and 3-year-old Skye Phillips sort through the Easter eggs they gathered.2 / 7
Once the horn blew at 1 p.m. the mad rush for colorful plastic eggs was on during Saturday's Easter egg hunt in Nevis, a family tradition for 14 years. 3 / 7
Lauren Hirt of Park Rapids fills her Easter basket as she makes her way through the field of colorful eggs during the 14th Annual Nevis Easter Egg Hunt held Saturday in Muskie Park along the Heartland Trail. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)4 / 7
Local businesses and sponsors donated 40 bikes to be given away at Saturday's Easter egg hunt in Nevis. (Kevin Cederstrom/Enterprise)5 / 7
Children and parents lined the Heartland Trail and waited patiently before the start of the annual egg hunt.6 / 7
Nine-year-old Isabella Higginbotham was in the Easter spirit with her bunny ears as she holds 10-month-old Brylen Higgenbotham at Saturday's Easter egg hunt.7 / 7

What takes a couple months of preparation to stuff over 10,000 plastic eggs only takes hundreds of children but a minute to gather and clear the grass at the annual Nevis Easter Egg Hunt.

It's not so much an Easter egg hunt but more a race, as children rush across the trail gathering as many as possible in a short amount of time.

The estimated 1,000 children, from ages 0 to 10-plus, filled Muskie Park on Saturday to take part in the 14th annual event along the Heartland Trail.

Brian and Sara Halik organize the event each year sponsored by the Nevis Fire Department and Civic & Commerce Association, with support from local businesses and community members for this Easter weekend tradition.

From toddlers to pre-teens, children (and parents) patiently wait behind the rope for the horn to blow at 1 p.m. to collect the colorful bounty.

Each year, Brian walks the length of the park a couple minutes before the start to visit with the participants.

"They're all behind the ropes, ducked under in their sprint position. I really enjoy getting to the end and I get to see all those kids run across the trail," Brian said.

And as quickly as it started, the grass was clear of eggs and parents gathered their children before moving over to center stage where 40 bicycles were given away. The bikes were donated by local businesses and increased from 32 given away last year.

It's a small town tradition that brings locals and visitors to the big muskie in the park.

Nolan Toft grew up in Nevis, lives in Brainerd now, and comes back each year to help with the event. He and others stood guard on the trail to make sure the Easter Bunny's goods were safe until the famous horn blew. The Nevis native has only missed a couple years in the 14 since its beginning and still gets a kick out of watching the kids scramble across the trail.

When he was in high school, Toft worked for the Haliks at Northwind Grocery and Cafe where a couple months before the event employees stuff the over 10,000 eggs. He loves coming back now to help the Haliks with this great American egg rush on the Heartland Trail.

"It's great to see a nice event for the hometown," Toft said. "Nevis is a small town and it's great to see so many people here. I make it a point to come back and give them a hand."

Brian said that's the case for a number of people who have worked for them to come back each year and help.

Brian and Sara started the event with 1,000 plastic eggs the first year and the idea to do something fun for families on Easter weekend. Since then it's grown 10-fold as an Easter destination with 900 eggs containing numbers for prizes like basketballs, hula hoops, bouncy balls, yo-yos, hackey sacks, etc., and candy in every egg.

Ten lucky winners even found cash-filled eggs. Gary Anderson, a long-time Nevis resident who always helped with the event for years, secretly inserted $10 in 10 eggs. Brian said Anderson now lives in Colorado and sent him $100 to carry on that tradition from afar.

"It's that type of involvement in the community that helps make this such a great event," Brian said. "We want to thank all the sponsors and thank the weather. Everything went off without a hitch."

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