By BONNIE BAILEY
On April 8, a perfect spring Saturday, families wandered the sidewalks of downtown Jonesborough, loitered in the plaza of the International Storytelling Center, and congregated under purple blooms on the walkways and grassy areas of Jimmy Neil Smith Park during the Annual Easter Eggstravaganza.
“We came for the egg hunt,” Carlene Long, a first-time attendee of the event, said from her seat on a park bench in front of the International Storytelling Center at about 2 p.m. “We didn’t realize it didn’t start until later.”
The Easter Eggstravaganza, organized by Main Street Jonesborough and Jonesborough Parks & Recreation, kicked off at 11 a.m. with an Easter Market — local vendors set up shop on the plaza of the Storytelling Center, offering Easter and spring-themed wares and gifts — but the main events took place from 1 to 3 p.m. and were scattered throughout the downtown area.
Allison Long, Carlene’s granddaughter, sat on the bench beside her with an empty white basket hooked on the crook of her arm, waiting to be filled with eggs. She showed off a stick only half-colored with fluffy blue cotton candy. The other half had been eaten away.
“I got to touch the [fire] truck and get cotton candy,” 7-year-old Allison said, grinning widely. “I’m going to get my face painted soon.”
The young visitor to Jonesborough traveled all the way from Lenoir City (near Knoxville) to attend the event and to visit her grandmother. Asked if she would attend the Easter Extravaganza again, Allison answered with blue-dye-tinged lips, “Yeah!”
In addition to cotton candy, face painting, and access to a fire truck (which many parents took advantage of, taking memorable photos of their children behind the wheel), there were also games to play, a petting zoo, free popcorn, children’s crafts, and photo opportunities with princesses and the Easter bunny. Law enforcement was also on hand with a police dog, which kids and adults alike flocked to meet.
“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Melinda Copp, director of Main Street Jonesborough said. “There were a lot of people in town.”
Many sponsors were involved with the Eggstravaganza, she said, providing the popcorn and cotton candy and other assistance.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped out,” Copp said. “We had a lot of people and organizations involved, and without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The event, which has been held downtown for the past four years, has had some small changes over time, Copp said, but the heart of it has stayed the same. It brings people downtown and gets them involved with organizations and people on Main Street and in the Jonesborough community.
“My friend’s mother told me about this event,” said Rebecca Barlow, another first-time attendee and a resident of Unicoi. In her arms, she held 7-month-old Grant Barlow. Faith Addison Barlow, almost 3-years-old, tagged along at her side.
“(Faith) wanted to see the Easter bunny,” Barlow laughed. She gestured at the family vehicle, parked nearby. “We got here late and we were able to just pull up and park right next to the Easter bunny, so that was nice. The Easter egg hunt is a surprise.”
The hunt, limited to children 12 and under, took place in Jimmy Neil Smith Park. Children dressed in bright colors sporting Easter baskets patrolled the park grounds throughout the afternoon, anticipating the hunt. The park had been split into four parts, each one dedicated to an age group, and in advance of the hunt, children raced up and down the paths, looking for the area meant for their age group, scoping out the best egg hiding spots.
But Faith had more urgent things on her mind. She tugged at Barlow’s shirt, her eyes alight.
“The Easter’s bunny’s over there!” she pointed to a line of people in front of the courthouse a line that led to the Easter bunny — before running off to wait her turn.
Barlow followed with a smile, joining the crowd.
On the courthouse steps behind them, a little girl in a pink dress hugged a princess, posing for a photograph. A family walked past carrying fresh popcorn, their faces painted, meandering toward their car. A man and woman with a small dog in tow strolled down the row of open shops on Main Street, peering in the windows, and shouts and laughter from the direction of the park heralded the beginning of the egg hunt.
It was another idyllic day in Jonesborough, and another successful Main Street event.
For information on upcoming events in downtown Jonesborough or to see photographs of the Easter Eggstravaganza, visit the Main Street Jonesborough Facebook page. You can also call the Historic Jonesborough Visitor Center at 423-753-1010.