Parents Wreck Easter Egg Hunt

Moms and dads break the rules, leading to lost kids and chaos at annual Easter event at the Jersey Shore

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Wednesday, Apr 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:21 AM EDT
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Kid Talks About Chaos at Easter Egg Hunt

Morgan Murphy describes how scared she was after being separated from her parents during a chaotic Easter egg hunt in Ocean City, N.J.
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Screaming kids, crying parents, panic and chaos.

It's not what you'd expect for a fun family event, but that's how some families describe this year's Great Easter Egg Hunt on the Ocean City, N.J. beach.

Close to 20,000 people descended onto the beach between 11th and 14th Streets in the shore town Saturday to take part in the annual event, officials said.

For the hunt, children are separated by age and then placed into the center of a large circle of parents. They are then encouraged to find 4,000 prizes inside more than 100,000 eggs.

Parents are asked to stay on the outside of the circle so that every child could be seen, but it seems that rule wasn't heeded, causing panic.

"The event went off and all the parents began to rush in...it was insane," Brian Brown said in an email to NBCPhiladelphia.com.

Brown says for almost 20 minutes, he could see children in the 3-year-old and 4-year-old section left unattended as parents frantically ran up and down the beach searching for missing children.

"The news made it sound like it was a good time, yet where we were with the 3 and 4-year-olds, I did not hear anyone saying it was a fun time or see any smiles," he said. "We will NEVER do that egg hunt in OC again."

Loren Murphy lost her 4-year-old daughter Morgan for almost 10 minutes.

"There were mothers crying, kids screaming and I think they needed somebody to step in," Murphy said.

Morgan says the fun event quickly became scary as she peered around but couldn't see mom or dad.

"I was a little bit excited and then I got scared…because I couldn’t find my mom and dad," the girl said.

The egg hunt organizers say they clearly told parents to stand back so that everyone could see their child, but that the adults didn't listen.

"A lot of parents did go into the age groups, which makes it difficult for the parents to see because now you have the taller adults blocking the younger children," organizer Brian Harley said. "So we ended up with a lot more lost kids this year."

Both Murphy and Brown also pointed the finger at parents who didn't listen to the instructions.

"They clearly told the parents several times to stay back and let the children have fun," Brown said. "As soon as it went off most of the parents rushed right in with their kids."

Organizers also said the great weather helped event attendance almost double – adding another equation to the formula.

Regardless of who was to blame, both families vow to steer clear of the O.C. beaches next Easter.

"We'll never go again and I actually heard a lot of people saying they'll never go again," Murphy said.

Event organizers say they feel there aren't really any changes to be made except to make even further reminders to stay outside the circle.

"We'll assess it and see what we can do to make it better next year," Harley said.

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