Thousands of Los Angeles residents and their kids converged on downtown’s Grand Hope Park on Sunday with colorful baskets in hand, ready for the hunt.
The occasion: the ninth-annual EasterFest. The prize: 15,000 Easter eggs.
The all-ages event was hosted by New City Church — a downtown congregation of about 450 members — with a portion of ticket sales going toward organizations such as Union Rescue Mission that help families facing homelessness.
About half of the congregation volunteered to help with the roughly 3,000 people expected to attend the bounce houses, potato sack races and other events throughout the day, EasterFest coordinator Kelly Kunf said.
“As a church here in downtown we really wanted to give back to the community,” Kunf said. “There’s not a lot of downtown family activities and we wanted to do something on Easter Sunday that was affordable.”
Families waited in line for almost an hour at the popular face-painting booths, but the Easter egg hunt was still the afternoon favorite, Kunf said. This year the EasterFest increased its total egg count from 10,000 to 15,000.
About 20 of those eggs belonged to Lebron Diza, 7, who was on his first hunt, thanks to his mom, Meriza Diza, and her boyfriend, Gilbert Canto.
“This is his first Easter [celebration] here in the United States,” Canto said. “He’s coming from the Philippines, so we wanted to bring him out and do something to celebrate.”
Lebron Diza joined hundreds of other kids at three egg hunt stations divided by age group. Kids were shuffled in 20 at a time to small grassy areas where volunteers had spread dozens of eggs for them to find.
The children raced, and nearly collided, to collect as many eggs as their basket or bag could hold.
New City Church’s lead pastor, Kevin Haah, supported his staff at the event as the self-titled “encourager.”
“This is a project run by volunteers to create a fun place for kids to go to,” Haah said. “It’s going great all day. It’s more people than we expected.”
Haah started New City Church nine years ago on 5th and Spring streets with a goal to help kids and families in the neighborhood.
Easterfest was a free event until two years ago, when the church began charging $5 a ticket to control attendance. However, anyone undergoing hardship who requested a free ticket was accommodated, Haah said.