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Pancakes and eggs: South Royalton holds Easter celebration

  • Aubrey MacKenzie, 11, dressed as the Easter Bunny, gives a prize to Connor Slack, 3, of South Royalton, Vt., during the Royalton Recreation Commission's annual Easter egg hunt at South Royalton Elementary School on Saturday, April 20, 2019. Children flooded the gym to retrieve plastic eggs with toys and candy inside after a pancake breakfast and craft activities in the school's cafeteria. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Plastic Easter eggs litter the South Royalton (Vt.) Elementary School gym before children dash in to pick them up during the Royalton Recreation Commission's annual Easter egg hunt Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Pastor Josh Moore of the Red Door Church (United Church of South Royalton) quizzes kids about details of the Easter story after reading to them about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection during the Royalton Recreation Commission's annual Easter breakfast and egg hunt Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, April 20, 2019

SOUTH ROYALTON — When you’re 11, inhabiting the role of the Easter Bunny can be a daunting task. After all, you’re The Easter Bunny, a rock star not quite on par with Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, but not far behind either.

Aubrey MacKenzie, however, was ready. An hour before the annual Easter egg hunt and pancake breakfast at South Royalton Elementary School on Saturday, she heard the organizers couldn’t find a willing rabbit impersonator. So she volunteered.

That’s how things go at this low-key community event: a chance to fill up on free pancakes; make some puppets to adorn your sticky fingers; stampede across the gym for plastic eggs; hear the story of Jesus if you’re so inclined; and, of course, snap some photos with a long-eared friend. Everybody pitches in where needed, whether it’s whipping up eight boxes of Aunt Jemima pancake batter in a bowl as big as a car tire, filling and hiding 1,000 eggs, or rocking a furry onesie.

“We’re just trying to get people together and have something fun for the kids,” said Kerri Rogers, director of the Royalton Recreation Commission, which has been putting on the event for at least the past 15 years.

Aubrey, whose father, Ian MacKenzie, was cooking pancakes and sausage along with other members of the recreation commission in the school kitchen, was once among the kids racing to fill baskets with plastic eggs. She credits her school’s reading buddies program, which matches older kids with younger kids, for preparing her to step into a new role after outgrowing the egg hunt.

“I don’t usually like being around a lot of small children,” she said before putting on the baggy costume and mingling with the little folks. “When I was 9 or 10, I would not have done this.”

The Easter Bunny wasn’t the only attraction at the event, which drew at least 100 community members in spite of the gloomy weather. In one corner of the cafeteria, the Rev. Josh Moore, pastor of the nearby Red Door Church, told the story of Jesus, picture book in hand, to about 15 children who’d gathered around him in a semicircle.

“I just think it’s important to call people back to where it all started,” said Moore, who’s been telling Bible stories at the breakfast for the past four or five years.

It’s sad, Moore said, that the holiday has drifted from its sacred roots over the years.

“That’s happened with a lot of other holidays as well, even St. Patrick’s Day,” said Moore, who participates in several community events in town throughout the year. “We see a part of our purpose to just remind people.”

It’s a gentle reminder, Moore added, and one that doesn’t take away from the more playful activities. His kids race around looking for eggs with everyone else, and the Bible stories are always billed as optional.

“We’re not here to cause any trouble. Every year it’s been very well-received,” he said. “We’re part of this community, so we value being invited.”

After the story, crafts and pancakes, families gathered in the gymnasium, where the recreation commission had reluctantly relocated the egg hunt in light of the rainy forecast. Collecting eggs scattered across the gym floor and tucked away in what few hiding places a gym offers, the children then retreated to the bleachers to count their treasures and pop them open.

Five-year-old Iris Dragon proudly counted 13 eggs. Her favorite: a special, shiny egg containing a certificate for a free candy bar.

Asked what kind of candy bar she would choose, she offered no comment.

The contents of the shiny eggs were donated by local businesses including RB’s Deli and the South Royalton Market, Rogers said. They’re another example of the way the community pitches in for the event, she said.

That community spirit had additional impact this year, as the recreation commission deals with damage from last week’s flooding. The town’s baseball fields are covered in silt, leaving the town’s K-6 teams with nowhere to practice or host games, just as the baseball season begins, Rogers said.

“Everything’s up in the air right now,” she said.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews and 603-727-3268.