Downtown Benton Easter celebration set Saturday

Preparations are continuing for the annual Easter celebration to be held this coming weekend in Downtown Benton.
The Downtown Benton Association is again hosting the 2013 Saline County Easter Egg Hunt, but residents are reminded that it is being held a week earlier than usual.
All of the are set for Saturday, March 23, coordinator Lisa Baldwin said. Most activities will take place on the lawn of the Saline County Courthouse, she said.
Baldwin noted that the hunt is a long-standing tradition, having taken place for more than 35 years. This year's schedule changes are being made "to better serve children and acquire additional volunteer help," she said.
Chief among the changes is the date, Baldwin emphasized.
Normally held on the Saturday preceding Easter, this year's hunt will take place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday in order to draw greater participation and additional volunteers, Baldwin noted.
Activities will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until noon.
"The reason for the change is to allow more churches to participate," Baldwin explained.
"It is also a good way to kick off Holy Week," she said.
She noted that 10 churches and community organizations are scheduled to participate in the event. These groups will host activities and provide special Easter treats on Sevier Street in front of the courthouse.
"Churches of all denominations are welcome to participate," Baldwin said.
Another change involves a designated activity for the youngest children, Baldwin said.
"A special area for children 4 and younger will be hosted by First United Methodist Church of Benton," she said.
"This will take place on the church lawn, located on Market Street across from the courthouse. The very youngest egg hunters can come any time throughout the event to find prize eggs and enjoy special activities in a secure location."
Traditional egg hunts will take place on the courthouse lawn for children 5-10, Baldwin said. Children 5 to 7 will hunt at 10:30, and children 8-10 will hunt at 11 a.m.
"In the past we have held hunts for children up to 12 years old," Baldwin said, "but very few older children attend the event. However, if any 11- and 12-year-olds come to hunt, they are welcome to join the 11 a.m. hunt."
Children should bring their own baskets, Baldwin noted.
"The hunt will include more than 12,000 eggs filled with a wide variety of prizes," she said.
Members of First Baptist Church of Benton have been collecting and filling most of the eggs for the hunt, she said.
Baldwin said the event will include some "special guests," including "Peter Cottontail," who will visit the youngest children on the lawn of First United Methodist Church, and
Peter's wife, "Bunny," who will visit children at the courthouse gazebo.
Baldwin encouraged parents to "bring their cameras to capture the moment" from this special experience.
She noted that volunteers from the Humane Society of Saline County will bring shelter animals for a petting area near the gazebo, and bounce houses will be set up on Sevier Street.
All activities are free, Baldwin said. She pointed out that children must be accompanied by an adult.
Assisting with the project are volunteers from the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County and the Golden 'K' Kiwanis Club.
"Both groups work to make the lives better for children of Saline County," Baldwin said.
In conjunction with the celebration, a cereal drive will be held to help fight childhood hunger during the summer months. The cereal donations can be dropped off at a special location at the corner of Sevier and Market streets, Baldwin said.
The cereal reportedly will be distributed to children who often go hungry during the summer months when they are not able to receive a school meal.
The cereal distribution will be handled through the Boys & Girls Club. Each person dropping off a box of cereal can register to win an Easter basket worth more than $100.
For more information or to participate in the Easter events, call Downtown Benton at 551-1100.