The Hixson Youth Athletic Association is benching the Easter Bunny and putting a whirlybird in charge of delivering Easter eggs Saturday.
The helicopter egg drop is one in a daylong series of events marking the start of baseball season at the park. In a phone interview, park secretary Natalie Bigham said the opening celebration at 10 a.m. will include Chattanooga Lookouts mascot Looie throwing out the ceremonial first pitch and salutes to the organization's past presidents and the park's founding family.
The egg hunt, which is co-sponsored by Abba's House, will start at noon, with 15,000 eggs dropped from a Chattanooga Helicopters chopper piloted by owner/operator Noah Farley.
In a phone interview, Farley said this is one of a half dozen Easter events his company has scheduled this spring in Tennessee and Georgia.
IF YOU GO
— What: Helicopter egg drop
— When: Noon-2 p.m. Saturday
— Where: Hixson Youth Athletic Association ballfields, 5410 School Drive
— Admission: Free
— Information: facebook.com/HYAAwildcats
"Normally around Easter, we'll do three to 10 drops," he said. "It depends on the year and who wants them."
He said the helicopter will hover "about treetop level, maybe 50 feet high" to drop the eggs. He'll have a crew of two with him to release the eggs from large trash bags.
Bigham said this is the first time park officials have planned an enhanced celebration for opening day, but they're hoping to build on the success of another community event, the Ball 'Til You Fall Festival, which they've held in October the past two years.
"We probably had over 3,000 attend last year," she said, explaining that free helicopter rides were one of the draws.
"I was looking for a wow factor to bring people in and ran across the helicopter tours," she said. "That's something a lot of families would never be able to experience otherwise."
Beyond the focus on youth sports, Bigham said she wants to provide a day of fun for the community at large. Saturday's event also will include craft vendors, free inflatables and other activities for children.
"It's more about bringing families and the community together," she said. "Hixson doesn't have as much going on for families as it used to. I've kind of made it my mission to bring it back to families and to be able to do fun things and not get in their pocket for every dime they have."
For Saturday's egg hunt, children will be divided into four age groups. They'll redeem their finds for candy and other prizes, including free meals at Texas Roadhouse and Moe's Southwest Grill. A cash prize awaits whoever finds the 6-inch baseball egg.
Bigham said she hopes the execution of the event goes better than the preparation for it. Originally, she was trying to accumulate 15,000 eggs by pulling a few dozen at a time from the shelves at discount stores. Even if she could fill several carts at a time, it was slow going -- 15,000 eggs equals 1,250 dozen.
So she placed a bulk order with a local Dollar Tree. But when the shipment came in last week, instead of finding eggs, "they sent me ranch dressing and boxes and boxes of flowers," she said.
"As much as I tried, I still had to buy buggies full again," she said.
ALSO THIS WEEKEND
— The Easter Bunny arrives Friday at two area malls. Through April 8, the bunny will be available for photos and visits during mall hours at Bradley Square Mall, 200 Paul Huff Parkway, Cleveland, Tenn., and select hours at Dalton Mall, 816 Walnut Square Blvd., Dalton, Ga. Bradley Square has a single Pet Night with the bunny 5-7 p.m. Monday. The bunny is already in residence at Hamilton Place, 2100 Hamilton Place Blvd., and Northgate Mall, 271 Northgate Mall Drive. Pet photos are scheduled each Monday. Walk-ins are welcome at all of the malls, or you can reserve an appointment online. Additionally, reservations open Saturday for photos with the Easter Bunny at Bass Pro Shops in East Ridge, available April 1-9. shopbradleysquare.com, daltonmall.com, basspro.com
— Citywide Easter egg hunt starts at 10 a.m. Sunday, compliments of Chattanooga’s two Vinterest stores. Each day, officials from the Hixson and Southside locations will hide at least one egg somewhere in the Chattanooga area with a social-media post hinting at its location. Then the hunt is on. If you find the egg, post a photo on Facebook or Instagram, then go by the specified store to pick up your vendor-provided prize. On April 8, they’ll hide a golden egg to give away the biggest prize of the season. There’s a limit of one prize egg per person. facebook.com/vinteresthixson