The line of tweens held tote bags or wicker baskets in one hand. The other hand was for flashlights that flickered on and off with excitement, like race cars revving their engines. This was not an average egg hunt.
At 9:25 p.m., Oxford’s Parks and Recreation Department killed the lights at the TRI Community Center baseball field. A few eager egg hunters took this as their cue to lunge toward the two thousand plastic eggs laying in the grass in front of them, but they were quickly called back by a man in a blue rain jacket who would explain the rules.
“When we say ‘Go,’ that’s it, you go,” he said.
At 9:30 p.m. on the nose, the magic word came booming from a megaphone, releasing a mob. Sixty-five 4th-8th graders rushed into the dark.
Jennifer Gill, who heard about the hunt on the Oxford Talk Facebook page, watched from the sidelines as her 12-year-old son, Nate Couch, ran ahead of the crowd to poach the eggs in the center of the field.
“A lot of Easter egg hunts are for children,” Gill said. “This one allowed him to have fun, too.”
The night time event for teens was one of three egg scrambles organized by Oxford’s Parks and Recreation Department last weekend. An adult version took place earlier Friday evening, while a traditional children’s egg scramble was held Saturday morning.
By 9:35 p.m., the lights were back on. No longer needing their flashlights, scavengers continued to comb the grass for remaining eggs, but the original rush had proved thorough. The eggs that once littered the field were now being piled up at the side of the parking lot as hunters cracked open their loot in hopes of finding an elusive prize ticket amid their mountain of sweet treats.
“Months of work, over in thirty seconds,” said Ryan Himes, the Parks and Recreation Department’s program director.
In the weeks leading up to the scrambles, volunteers from the Oxford Senior Center and Miami’s fraternities and sororities stuffed candy and prize tickets into over 12,000 eggs. The prizes ranged from board games to Bluetooth headphones, as well as gear donated by Miami Athletics.
A girl wearing a red headlamp was the first to approach the prize table to redeem a ticket. She immediately nabbed a Miami jacket and walked away, only to return moments later for a pair of white athletic gloves instead.
Originally planned for Thursday night, the teen egg scramble was pushed back a day due to rain. Himes said the rain delay had little impact on the event’s attendance, but the same could not be said for the adult scramble.
Last year, the adult egg scramble debuted at the Community Park Trail, where participants were challenged to climb trees and use other complicated methods to find eggs. Unfortunately, this level of difficulty was dampened by the rain this year, resulting in a milder experience at the TRI Community Center.
Matthew Cochran, 12, was undeterred by the recent weather. A veteran of the night egg scramble, he and his friends said muddy shoes were a small price to pay for Sour Patch Kids. They agreed that the best strategy was to run ahead of the crowd, then loop around to collect the eggs they missed.
“You can always go back because people miss eggs and step over them,” Matthew said.
At 9:45 p.m., all the empty eggs were packed away in a tub to be reused for next year. A handful of hunters stuck around to play tag in the playground across the parking lot, burning off excess adrenaline that would soon be replaced by an inevitable sugar rush.