Nicole Shaver had a special technique to help fill her basket with chocolate eggs and other goodies during the annual Easter Egg Hunt in Oak Park.
"I slid like I was coming into home base, and I think it worked," the cheery 9-year-old said while holding a sack fat with chocolate eggs and other confections.
Nicole was one of more than 500 kids who scoured the manicured grounds at Oak Canyon Community Park on Saturday hunting for the eggs. The hunt was one of several staged around the county from Ojai to Oxnard to Oak Park.
Instead of real eggs, the children scooped up thousands of small, egg-shaped chocolates wrapped in pastel-colored foil that shimmered like sequins in the bright sun.
"They weren't hard to spot," Nicole said. "You just had to keep your eyes open."
And if they got lucky, they found one of the hollow plastic eggs that contained surprises such as gift certificates and coupons for large chocolate bunnies.
The event featured three hunts for different age levels. In the first, for children 4 and younger, about 100 toddlers sporting some of their best outfits darted about the grass with baskets in hand.
But it appeared that some weren't aware of the hunt's purpose.
Some turned somersaults and cartwheels, while others simply sat and picked grass. One boy, obviously uncomfortable in the sun, ran straight for a tree to sit in the shade.
The real competition occurred when the more than 300 7- to 10-year-olds gathered in a circle and patiently waited for the hunt to begin.
When the OK was given, a squealing mob of children sprinted for the center to pick up the eggs.
"It was claustrophobic in there," said 10-year-old Kat Olthof of Oak Park. "But I just kept my eyes on the eggs and went for them."
While no one is sure exactly how Easter egg hunts became such a tradition during the holiday, there are several possible explanations.
One posits that hundreds of years ago, eggs were forbidden during Lent. Thus, decorated eggs might have symbolized the end of the penitential season and the beginning of the Easter celebration.
Another says that eggs, as traditional symbols of life and creation, represent the Resurrection; a third suggests that colored eggs represent the return of spring.
None of that mattered to 7-year-old Michael Faciane of Thousand Oaks, who wanted to start eating his sugary haul.
"Easter egg hunts are cool because you get to eat candy," he said while picking through the chocolates in his wicker basket. "I can't wait to do this next year."