By John Swartz
Saturday morning downtown Orillia will be infested with foreign objects, and kids are going to be sent in to eradicate the problem – eggs. It’s an annual thing, like ice eventually melting away in Lake Couchiching, where hundreds, if not thousands of colored eggs are scattered around the downtown, by who, no one knows.
“We don’t know where they come from, the eggs, not the kids,” said Joseph Blough, the Downtown Orillia Management Board’s person in charge of keeping the streets clean. “They’re not even real eggs, thankfully, I always find one or two that get missed and that would be a problem on Tuesday morning when I get back to work. It would be worse because some of the little ones drop them countless times, which of course only has to happen once with a real egg.”
When the problem first inflicted the area decades ago, someone came up with the idea of getting the kids to hunt down the eggs, and in return, instead of minimum wages, the DOMB offered chocolate in exchange for eggs turned in at the Opera House.
“It’s really ingenious when you think about it,” said Blough. “The cost for a couple hour’s work multiplied by several hundred would mean a terrific upset to the budget otherwise.”
The plan is to have everyone meet at the Opera House at 9:30 a.m. to receive instructions, clues, where to look for the eggs.
“We’d started earlier, but you know how it is, tearing those kids away from the TV on a Saturday morning when Looney Tunes is on,” said Blough. “Do they still show those cartoons?”
The Opera House is the home base where found eggs can be exchanged for chocolates at the official sounding Egg Exchange Station. As an incentive, because some kids aren’t enthusiastic about getting free chocolate, they can get their pictures taken with Edgar the Easter Bunny as a memento of the expedition, and there are other prizes. There’s also a face painting artist on hand.
“We’re not sure how that started,” said Blough. “I think it was some old merchant who served in the war who came up with the idea, something about camouflage was mentioned. They’re eggs, they aren’t going anywhere, but kids love it, so what’s the harm.”
To make sure the downtown is cleared in time for the noon lunch rush, the first 200 kids arriving can get a free Kiddie Dog from the Orillia Farmers’ Market BBQ at the Orillia Public Library, and Cracklin Kettle Corn will have some popcorn to keep the advance team’s bellies full.
“I don’t know why nobody thought to contact Red Bull, or this place would be cleaned up by 9:45,” said Blough.
The popularity of the operation is such the chocolate gatekeepers decided long ago kids only need to find three eggs to exchange for chocolate.
“Do you know how hard it is to look into a kid’s eyes and tell them you’ve run out of chocolate?” said Blough. “Apple Annie’s tries, but they can’t pump out any more without creating another problem. People would have to wait in longer lines for coffee. We had to put n a quota to keep all the kids, and their parents happy.”
Blough takes in the event every year, rain or shine, sitting nearby with a cup of coffee and a big smile on his face.
“I don’t come back into work until Tuesday,” he said, “with this event happening I can at least look forward to a normal work day because until whoever it was came up with the Easter Egg Hunt it was not pretty.”