OCEAN CITY — A convoy of strollers converged on the beach between 11th and 14th streets Saturday.

After lining up along the Boardwalk, an army of determined children dismounted and began plotting their objective in the sand.

The target: thousands of colorful plastic Easter eggs. The mission: to get as many of them as possible.

A siren sounded as the clock struck 2:30 p.m., commencing the start of The Great Egg Hunt and sending the previously calm crowd of thousands of children into a sand-tossing frenzy.

This was a mission that 2-year-old Absecon resident McKayla Mellnick was not about to head into alone.

With a purple plastic basket in one hand and her father Frederick’s hand in the other, McKayla grabbed eggs two at a time until her basket was full — and then she worked on filling her father’s pockets.

“She was excited because she thinks the Easter Bunny brought all of these eggs here for her. And she’s excited for the candy, of course. What 2 year old isn’t?” said McKayla’s mother, Barbara, 24.

While a majority of the egg hunters, such as McKayla, were clearly in a race against time to fill their buckets. Others, such as 1-year-old Northfield resident Hunter Pendlebury, took a more deliberate approach.

With a skull and crossbones on his shirt and a black knit cap reading “lock up your daughters” on his head, Hunter took command of the southwest corner of the hunting grounds. After gathering only six eggs, he was content to sit in the sand and enjoy the quality eggs he did find.

“He got off to a little slow start at first, and then eventually he caught on. But this is as far as we got,” said Hunter’s mother, Heather, 37, while standing only a few feet inside the perimeter fencing. “He’s more concerned with quality than quantity, I guess.”

The egg hunt was part of a weekend of Easter-themed activities that attracts thousands of visitors to Ocean City each year.

Starting with a breakfast with the Easter Bunny and the Woofin’ Paws Pet Fashion Show on Saturday morning and concluding with the Easter Fashion Promenade on the Boardwalk today, the holiday weekend has become an unofficial summer kickoff of sorts for Boardwalk businesses.

“This is it. This is when it all begins,” said Chrissy Triggiani, who has owned and operated Bad Kitty, a clothing and accessory shop for girls on the Boardwalk, for a dozen years. “It’s always busy here on Easter weekend, but I’ve never seen it like this. It’s mobbed this year.”

Triggiani said the warm temperatures the region has experienced during the early part of this year have caused her shop, and others, to be busier than normal. But she warned that it doesn’t mean merchants can expect the trend to continue through the summer.

“It’s all up to the weather,” she said. “If it’s nice, we’re busy. If it rains, no one is here.”

Pottstown, Pa., resident Dawn Engleman regularly visited Ocean City as a child. On Saturday, she made the Easter weekend trip with her three children for the first time.

“It’s great; very laid back. And it’s a nice combination of getting to have your feet in the sand and still enjoy some of the traditional Easter activities,” said Engleman, adding she thought the Ocean City trip would make a good family tradition but that she was unsure whether it would be her family. “We’re expecting another baby in a couple months, so I don’t know how we’d be able to handle four kids in all of this craziness. But we might be able to make it work.”

But Engleman’s children seemed to be living in the moment, especially during the egg hunt.

“I liked all the running and getting the eggs,” said Engleman’s grinning 5-year-old daughter, Ava, while touting a bag full of her winnings. “I think I got all of them.”

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