HOMER — Carrying brightly colored baskets and running ahead of parents, hundreds of children scampered across the Garrison family’s property Sunday hunting for candy eggs.
They took part in what was once billed as the "world’s largest Easter egg hunt," trying to get their share of the some 110,000 eggs strewn across the field off Ga. 51 west, across from Banks County Primary School.
A slight breeze and sunny skies brightened the day that was otherwise dimmed by the news that the Garrisons’ 50th annual egg hunt could be their last.
The economy’s pinch — including $10,000 alone for the eggs — and the exhaustive preparation to put on the event have taken their toll, said organizers.
For the first time, the family accepted donations toward putting on the event, which began humbly as a gathering for church members and employees and their families.
The news hit some like a ton of dyed eggs.
"That’s terrible," said Tasha Lowman of Banks County, attending with her three children, ages 3 to 11. "...We look forward to this every year."
Mack Garrison Jr., who kept the event going after the passing of his grandfather, father and uncle, said he hopes other outside community-oriented organizations, such as the Banks County Chamber of Commerce, can keep the event from fading altogether.
"If they do, I’ll work with them any way I can," including offering his property as the host site, he said.
"I think the Garrison family has done a real good deed for the community and the surrounding area. ... I do it for the kids, mainly. I see people here today who ... hunted with me in 1959.
"I was 4 years old when we had the first hunt. I don’t remember a whole lot about it, but I do every one after that."
The event grew in popularity. In the early 1980s, one of Garrison’s cousins did a school project chronicling the annual event and submitted the information to Guinness World Records.
"Someone later broke our record," he said.
"We didn’t set out to set any records; it just grew to be that big."
There were plenty of people at Sunday’s hunt, with children scrambling over the grassy lawn and dodging anthills as they popped eggs into their baskets.
Jessie Marvin, 9, of Gillsville said she was excited about the hunt because "you’re going to have to be competitive."
Just before the event’s start, families lined the wooden fences that boxed in the property, with gates at different locations serving as entry points.
In addition to the candy eggs, workers put out 100 plastic eggs that guaranteed the hunters a prize — either a live rabbit, a stuffed rabbit or an Easter basket.
Lowman’s youngest child, 3-year-old Emma, was one of the lucky winners, her mom helping her place the bunny in a cardboard box.
Lowman said she has taken her children to the event since her oldest child, 11-year-old Preston was 3. Her other child is Kellon, 5.
Taking in the Easter hunt has become a family tradition, along with getting together with other family members.
"It’s such a big thing. (The children) go to school here and they see a lot of people they know, and I see a lot of people I know," Lowman said.