Delighted expressions abounded Sunday at Raymond James Stadium during the Buccaneers Easter Egg Hunt
There were Easter eggs to be found in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, if you knew where to look.
How about behind the 6-2, 225-pound man painting an Easter Bunny mask? Under a chair holding a linebacker who was busily gluing together a picture frame? Next to the karaoke machine? In the feed for the petting zoo?
Obviously, this wasn't your ordinary Easter Egg Hunt.
And that was fine with the hundreds of parents and children that showed up at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday afternoon for the second annual. Buccaneers Easter Egg Hunt, put on by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and University Community Health. The event, which lasted from 1:00-4:00 p.m. and delighted many a young child, had plenty of Buc players, activities and, yes, Easter eggs to send everyone home happy.
"There's just so much to do here," said Tiffany Armitage, a mother of three. "We'll be here all day doing the arts and crafts, playing the games and doing all the things there are to do here. It's a fabulous event for the kids and the parents."
That 225-pound player sweating out his bunny mask was Ryan Nece, while Pro Bowler Shelton Quarles was the picture-frame artist. Among his teammates who were on hand for the fun were RB Travis Stephens, S John Howell, LB Ryan Nece and DE Greg Spires.
The main event, the egg hunt sponsored by University Community Health, was actually a series of hunts. Another one kicked off each half hour between 1:00 and 3:30 p.m. on the Raymond James Stadium field. The participating children were split up into three groups – 4 and under, 5-7 and 8-10 – and let loose to search out the plastic, candy-filled eggs that had been strewn around the field.
"The egg hunt was cool," said six year-old Sarah Smiddy, dressed in a blue dress with pink bunnies. "I got a bunch of eggs and some of my favorite candy, Starbursts."
The Egg Hunt was the focus of the early crowd, but the late arrivals seemed to favor the arts and crafts area where the Buccaneer players were located.
Children and players were paired up to create masks and picture frames. Elsewhere, kids could engage in many other activities, such as placing their fingers in plaster casts, having their blood pressure checked, giving karaoke their best shot, interacting with animals in the Buccaneers petting zoo, getting their faces painted, entering a contest to win a Jon Gruden autographed football, playing Operation, having balloon animals made, competing for prizes in a ring toss and bean bag toss game, meeting Captain Fear and getting their picture taken with the Easter Bunny.
Stephens joined Nece at the bunny mask station, while Howell and Spires preferred the ring toss game. Stephens, Nece and Quarles (at the picture frame station), eventually strayed from the provided designs and began to concoct their own. Nece started adding buckteeth to his bunny masks, a trend that quickly caught on with the children at his station.
The kids may have liked the bucktooth touch, but Nece's veteran teammate was less impressed.
"It's not very good," said Quarles jokingly. "He's not very artistic. He has no artistic ability."
Quarles was hard at work at his own project, creating a picture frame from tongue depressors, glue, glitter and foam bunny and egg shapes for his son and daughter. None of the Buccaneers, however, could generate the excitement that surrounded the day's guest of honor, the Easter Bunny.
The line for the Easter Bunny went about 100 people deep at it's longest, with people still waiting in line after the originally-scheduled end to the event, at 4:00 p.m. Three year-old Jake Taylor wasn't to be denied, standing in line and repeating the words, 'Easter Bunny' over and over again. Once his picture was finally taken and the photo was handed over, Jake simply pointed at the picture and smiled, saying nothing.
Eventually, the second annual Buccaneers Easter Egg Hunt wound down, but not before every attendee had his or her share of excitement.
"It was fun," said Quarles, who brought along his wife and two children to enjoy the festivities. "Everything went smooth and I had a great time playing with the kids and making crafts."