Emily Purdy, 3, picks up an egg as her mother, Erica Thompson, watches over her and her sister, not pictured, Saturday during an Easter egg hunt at the Center For All Seasons in Belgrade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

BELGRADE — Face coverings may have masked the excited faces of children hunting Easter eggs Saturday, but their parents were quick to express excitement about the event.

Heather Katz of Rome attended the event at the Belgrade Community Center for All Seasons with her husband and son, Zachary, 8. Katz saw it as another signal of a return to normalcy along with making COVID-19 vaccines available to ages 16 and older. While some things are returning to normal, Katz said many people are still cautious about being in public.

“I think we hope that this is the beginning of things opening up,” Katz said. “I think that we just hope that we’re going to have more and more of these opportunities to be together as a community.”

The annual event took place on Saturday morning for the first time since 2019, as it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic. Lily Schubert, Belgrade’s recreation director, said this year’s edition of the annual egg hunt was about one-third the size of the last one.

Schubert said the event usually involves a small brunch-type event inside the community center before the kids are unleashed to find eggs, but that part did not happen.

“We skipped all of that, it’s all outside,” she said, adding that volunteers were hard to come by this year as well. “I didn’t think renting a costume was safe this year.”

People look for eggs near the banks of Great Pond during an Easter egg hunt Saturday at the Center For All Seasons in Belgrade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Schubert said most of the town’s indoor events have been canceled. She said the town was able to conduct a few events in the Belgrade Village Green, including some craft shows and an upcoming music series. Schubert said Saturday’s hunt was important to get community members back out and participating in events in Belgrade.

“Winters are normally hard in Belgrade anyway,” she said. “We’re a tourist town and not a lot of tourists this time of year.”

Each one of the participants got 11 eggs, mostly filled with toys and some with some with coupons for larger prizes, like stuffed animals.

Katz said her family usually attends events at the community center, and called the egg hunt the “quintessential family event” in the spring.

“They just make it so great for the kids,” she said.

Katz said her family’s life has been disrupted by the pandemic, but the past few months have been studded with positive experiences in strange places.

“It’s been full of the ups and downs,” she said. “We found glimmers of goodness elsewhere unexpectedly.”

Piper Lozefski finds a piece of gum in one of her 11 eggs after an Easter egg hunt Saturday at the Center For All Seasons in Belgrade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Julie Michelitch of Belgrade attended the event with her daughter Ana, 6. Michelitch said she and her family usually reside in Georgia in the colder months, but chose to stay in Belgrade this year for the winter outdoor activities available in Maine.

“We’ve owned our house here for five years, but with the pandemic (my husband) can work from home so we chose to stay here,” she said.

Michelitch said Saturday’s event was nice, and would serve as a precursor to their personal Easter egg hunt on Sunday at home. Michelitch said Maine’s climate allows her to purchase chocolate to put in the eggs for a change, explaining chocolate melts in the Georgia heat when they stay down south.

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