Kids get a jump on Easter fun

News-DemocratApril 13, 2014 

Owen and Kaia Fontaine didn't mind the interruption during breakfast Saturday, when the Easter Bunny sat down with them at the table.

The brother, 6, and sister, 3, just smiled, slapped the furry guy a high-five and giggled.

There was a lot of that going at Eckert's Restaurant over the weekend, as families sat down to break bread and take photos of their children with the big-eared rabbit that hopped from table to table.

"This has been fun for them," said Amanda Fontaine, 31, of Scott Air Force Base, of the annual Breakfast with the Bunny at the orchard restaurant. While she kept her eyes on her two oldest, husband Brain, 34, was busy smiling and eating as he hovered over son Aiden, 6 1/2 months old. Twin sister Audrey was across from mom and grandmother Marti Lindell, visiting from Indiana.

"We just moved here three weeks ago" from Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, said Amanda, adding that the event was a nice surprise for newcomers.

After breakfast, they planned to head over to the egg hunt that takes place among the rows of apple trees at the top of a hill. In the past, they've also colored eggs and gone to church on Easter Sunday.

Hunting eggs

Christy Clayton, of O'Fallon, said she saw no reason to dress up her kids when the weather was still so chilly and she knew they'd be outside.

"But, it's not raining, so we decided to come on out," she said as she watched her threesome -- Alyson, 12, Ryan, 7, and Katelyn 4 -- pick up plastic eggs filled with surprises. No hogging: only 12 per child.

When Ryan popped open an egg and found a purple monkey sticker, he handed it to his little sister, who was hard to miss with a big red flower in her hair. His mother nodded her approval.

Like the Fontaines, Christy and her husband, Kevin, 36, moved to the area from San Antonio for his assignment at Scott Air Force Base.

"We'll decorate and color eggs in Florida this year for break," Christy said of visiting friends there.

She smiled as she stopped to open more eggs and discover tiny tops and other toys with the children.

"This is our new tradition."

Growing tradition

Inside the Garden Center, Norah Ward, 4, made quick work of stuffing a bush bean seed into a muddy pot so she could take it home and watch it grow. Having already had her face painted, she resembled a cat, right down to the whiskers.

Mom Stacy Ward, of Belleville, stood nearby, ready to grab the dripping pod and stick it in a baggie. Nearby was son Robert Sieben, 6, and daughter Sophia Ward, 2. Grandmother Penny Sieben said they'd already been to the egg hunt.

"We do this every year," said Stacy, 32. "I guess we've been doing it for three years."

She examined the soggy baggie in her hand. She wasn't sure whether the seedling would survive.

"I think it'll get pretty mangled by the time we get home."

There's still time to take part in the meal and activities at Eckert's:

Easter Egg-citement

What: Hunt eggs, pet baby chicks and bunnies, get your face painted, meet the Easter Bunny, plant a seed and enjoy an Easter treat. A photo with the bunny can be purchased for an additional $7. Easter egg hunts start hourly from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Eckert's Orchards and Garden Center, corner of Green Mount Road and Illinois 15, Belleville

Cost: $10 per child. (Look for a buy one, get one coupon at eckerts.com.) No advanced registration required.

Information: 618-233-0513

Breakfast with the Bunny

What: Family-style breakfast with a visit from the Easter Bunny

When: 8-11 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Eckert's Restaurant

Cost: $6/child, $12/adult.

Reservations: Recommended to (618) 233-0513, Ext. 3

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