Pierre, SD 1953

Pierre, SD Lodge News

Capital Journal Story on 2019 Elks Easter Egg Hunt

Thanks to the Pierre Capital Journal for publishing this story!
April 17, 2019

A semi-truck pulled up next to the governor’s mansion on early Wednesday afternoon, April 17. A handful of older men mulling in the driveway suddenly came to life; moving cars, counting boxes, walking down to meet the truck. The men were members of the Pierre Elks Club, and — as they have for 66 years — they were preparing for the Easter Sunday Egg Hunt on the lawn of the governor’s mansion.

The truck was full of red tote boxes, each red tote box was full of candy. This was not the first shipment of candy the Elks have received, though it is the largest. By Sunday, some ten thousand of the individual sweets will be packed inside waiting multicolor plastic eggs by T.F. Riggs High’s Venus Club. The other six thousand or so candies will be scattered across the mansion lawn “like grass seed,” Elks member Steven Wegman said.

Wegman has been overseeing the Elks’ Easter prep for more than thirty years. A semi-retired former employee of the state, he’s a self-described “Easter Bunny wrangler.” He coordinates a number of other events in the capital area with other Elks throughout the year, but Easter, he said, is special.

“Easter’s kind of a big deal to us… it’s rebirth,” he said.

Besides candy, kids will also have a chance to pick up toys and tchotchkes such as hula hoops. This Easter, as with every Easter, much of the candy and toys were paid for by capital area residents. Wegman personally coordinated the Easter fundraisers, he said, and this year was one of the first he went digital.

“I did a Facebook page [fundraiser]; we tried something new this year,” Wegman said. “Surprised at how much money came in from that.”

This year the egg hunt will feature appearances from the Easter Bunny and Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, who serve approximately the same purpose in state governance. The Bunny will be played by a young woman whose identity the Elks are purposefully keeping a secret; they said only that she was someone who previously took part in and helped facilitate the egg hunt. There is no word yet on who will portray Rhoden, or if the Elks will simply make use of animatronics.

The egg hunt will officially start at 1 p.m. on Sunday April 21, Wegman said, though anyone who wants to take their photo with the Easter Bunny (or Rhoden) can arrive as early as 12:30. Once the actual egg hunt starts, Wegman said, it goes fast. “It can be as short as three minutes and 53 seconds or as long as 11 minutes and some-dds seconds,” he said. The Elks time it every year.

Wegman said that despite how short the hunt is, thousands of South Dakota families come every year to participate or simply watch.

“Normally we have around 1,500 to 2,000 kids…” Wegman said. “It’s truly a community event.”