Cookin', Critters and Chillun

What has 1,000 legs, flies and lays 50,000 eggs?

It sounds like a kids’ joke: What has 1,000 legs, flies and lays 50,000 eggs? Answer: the Helicopter Easter Egg Drop. That’s the event Fellowship Community Church will sponsor this Saturday morning when a hired helicopter flies over Salem Stadium and drops 50,000 candy-filled plastic Easter eggs.

The 1,000 legs belong to the 500 volunteers from the Salem church, who are trained and ready. Anything that involves that many children and adults takes practice, and on Sunday, that’s what the volunteers did – without the helicopter and the eggs and the children.

They learned how to how to get the thousands of children expected on April 12 on and off the football field in an orderly and safe manner, and how to entertain them in between egg drops.

It’s the first time that Fellowship has sponsored a helicopter egg drop. Ben Carr, the youth pastor of the North Campus (which meets at the Brambleton Center in Cave Spring), came from a Texas church which did a similar event, explained Children’s Ministry Director Cathy Noell. Fellowship members are ready for their church’s event to be a big success. They’re praying for good weather, and not too much wind.

It was windy last week when helicopter pilot Mark Dalton of Gretna briefly buzzed the stadium to get a feel for the locale. He didn’t drop any eggs.

For those people who have expressed concerns that little children might be hit in the head by dropping eggs, rest assured. Here’s the plan:

“The children will be in the stands. The helicopter will hover about 40 feet over the field, four or more times, and an assistant – not a church volunteer, because of insurance safety regulations – will open bags of eggs out the open door of the helicopter,” Noell said.

The helicopter will make at least four passes over the field, one or two for each age group, with a 30-minute break in between: kids 3 years old through pre-kindergarten will be called out on the field with their adults to pick up eggs at 9:30 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., kindergarten and first-graders will be escorted onto the field, followed by second and third-graders at 10:45 a.m., and fourth and fifth-graders at 11:15 a.m.

In a separate roped-off area, the littlest children, age 2 and under, can hunt eggs between 9 a.m. and noon.

Every child will receive a coloring book about the Easter story, Noell said. The Easter Bunny will be around for photographs.

Parents are being urged to pre-register their children at www.valleyeggdrop.com, so they won’t have to stand in line when arriving at the stadium. Gates open at 8:45 a.m. There will also be inflatables to entertain the kids, crafts, and music. The Salem Host Lions Club will be selling concessions.

The egg hunt is free and will be  held rain or shine. It’s in the morning of the same day the City of Salem Recreation & Parks does its annual Easter Egg Hunt in Longwood Park. That hunt in the park will start at 1 p.m., so families that want to take advantage of both can.

The church has spread the word through local business’ marquee boards, hired a digital billboard in the Cave Spring area, handed out thousands of business-card-size announcements and promoted the event through its worship centers in Salem, at the Brambleton Center in Cave Spring and its Hollins campus.

“The stadium holds 7,500 people,” Noell said. “We’re hoping to fill both sides. Our goal is to have a fun event, and to give back to our community. We’re going to be sharing the love of Jesus that day.”

EDITOR’S NOTE – Since this column was published in the April 10 print issue, church leaders said the helicopter service decided wind updrafts in the stadium were not conducive to flying over the field and dropping eggs. Instead, the helicopter flew low over a grassy area next to the Salem Civic Center, enclosed by construction fencing.

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