Dozens scramble to in search of golden egg

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 1999

Dozens of children, with Easter baskets and parents in tow, scrambled to Natchez’ Easter egg hunts on Saturday.

At 9 a.m., 61 children lined up at the edge of a field near the rear entrance of Natchez Mall. At the word &uot;Go!&uot;, they were off like a shot, snatching up plastic eggs and tossing them into baskets and Wal-Mart bags.

Then they rushed back to their parents, who helped them break open the eggs to see which contained small toys and which held certificates for gifts from mall merchants.

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&uot;This is all she’s wanted to do, is hunt eggs,&uot; said Angela Lewis, whose 2 1/2-year-old daughter participated in a smaller hunt held nearby for children up to 3 years old.

&uot;Maybe this way she’ll get some of that energy out.&uot;

The third annual egg hunt was sponsored by Kaiser’s Petroleum and Pepsi Cola and promoted by radio station WQNZ.

&uot;(Mall manager) Art Fesmire asked us if it was something we’d be interesting in doing, and we took him up on it,&uot; said Ben Sills, president of the Natchez Lions Club. &uot;Every year it’s gotten bigger.&uot;

Ten hunts were held back to back, with separate areas for children 3 and younger and those 4 and older. Two bicycles were given away during the children’s egg hunts.

Then a hunt was held for adults. Two plastic eggs contained certificates for free vacation packages.

Children paid $1 per hunt and participants in the adult egg hunt paid $5 each, with the money going to the Natchez Lions Club.

Last year’s hunt raised about $1,000 for the club, Sills said. The money is set aside for community projects, such as paying for eye exams, eyeglasses and hearing aids for the needy.

&uot;Easter is about celebrating the resurrection of Christ,&uot; said Sandy Dunn, who attended the hunt with husband Terry and daughters Carla, 12, and Cami, 7.

&uot;But things like this are a good chance for them to have a little fun.&uot;

An Easter egg hunt was also held at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus. There, several hunts were held for different age groups.

Older children bounded onto the hilly land next to the Vocational-Technical Education Building. Smaller ones found the eggs with the help of their parents.

The event, which began at 10 a.m., was sponsored by the campus’ chapter of Health Occupations Students of America.

Last year, the group sponsored an egg hunt for Co-Lin faculty and staff and their families, said chapter advisor Lawanda Doss.

This year, they decided to open it to the public to provide the community with another wholesome and safe Easter activity.

&uot;I wasn’t expecting this much of a turnout,&uot; Doss said, watching children mill around the grounds. &uot;Some folks were here as early as a quarter to ten.&uot;

Other activities at the event included prize giveaways, games, food, face painting, a dunking booth and pictures with the Easter bunny.

The Natchez Democrat

With his green cap, shamrock lei and staff to chase snakes, Richard M. Durkin looks every bit the part of St. Patrick.

The proud former owner of a boat named &uot;Leprechaun&uot; even has an Irish background.

But it is probably Durkin’s volunteer work – more than 40 years with the Santa Claus Committee and also as a member of the Krewe of Killarney – that makes him the perfect St. Patrick to lead the annual parade to the bluffs.

&uot;It’s a very high and distinct honor,&uot; Durkin said of his chance to &uot;drive the snakes&uot; from Natchez.

And he’s no stranger to putting on a costume. He was St. Nick for the Santa Claus Parade in 1973, and now serves as chairman emeritus of the Santa Claus Committee.

&uot;Of the nine St. Patricks, five of us were Santa Claus as well,&uot; Durkin said.

The Santa Claus Committee delivers toys and other gifts to needy children each Christmas Eve, and the Krewe of Killarney is devoted to children as well, making donations to each high school for scholarships, to Pleasant Acre Day School, to elementary school libraries and to the Sunshine Shelter.

The St. Patrick title is appropriate for a man friend Will Feltus once said looked like &uot;a giant leprechaun.&uot;

The grandson of an Irish coal miner in Pennsylvania, Durkin came South to work and to get married. He was a mechanical engineer with International Paper for 31 years.

&uot;Natchez has been very good to me,&uot; Durkin said.

But Durkin’s achievements and involvement prove he’s been very good to the city as well.

In addition to his involvement with the Santa Claus Committee and Krewe of Killarney, Durkin served as director of the St. Mary Church choir for seven years, and for 20 years was chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Metro Planning Commission. He also helped start a girls softball league.

&uot;With the help of some five people, one of whom was Clarence Bowlin, we got the girls’ softball program up and running about 30 years ago,&uot; Durkin said.

Durkin and his wife, Camille, have five children and seven grandchildren. Two of their granddaugters will march in the parade behind their grandfather today.

As always, the walking parade will be informal, and that’s just fine with St. Patrick No. 9.

&uot;It’s very loosely organized,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s the way they need to keep it.&uot;

People can begin gathering for the parade at 4 p.m. at the Main Street entrance to Memorial Park. The parade begins at 4:30 p.m.