Special Easter Egg hunt offers canines a dog gone good time

By Elise Zwicky for Chronicle Media

Mitch, a Jack Russell, sniffs the Easter Bunny while fellow canine Hershey and their owners, Keegan and Kassidy Mullins, pose at last year’s Doggie Easter Egg Hunt at Camp Wokanda. This year’s hunt takes place on Saturday, March 31. (Photo courtesy of Camp Wokanda)

A Camp Wokanda Easter egg hunt is going to the dogs this year.

The Peoria Park District-owned camp, located at 620 E. Boy Scout Road in Chillicothe, is inviting humans and dogs of all sizes to its fourth annual Doggie Easter Egg Hunt from 1 to 3 Saturday, March 31.

“Because we’re one of the few parks that allows dogs here, this was kind of a natural offshoot. It’s just hilariously fun,” said Camp Wokanda program director Cathy Lane.

The event is also a fundraiser, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Stray Animal Midway Shelter (SAMS) in Hanna City.

“We pick a different shelter each year that’s doing good work and that could use the help,” Lane said. “We usually are able to donate a couple of hundred dollars. We don’t charge a lot for this, but we do give a percentage of the proceeds.”

The event is drop-in with no pre-registration required and costs $5 per dog and $2 per human.

“We had a good amount of people and dogs the first year, but it has grown a lot. We easily had a couple hundred humans and maybe a hundred dogs last year and we were almost overwhelmed, so we’re refiguring our registration process so people don’t get held up on the way in,” Lane said.

In separate egg hunts for small and large breeds, the dogs and their owners look for papier-mache eggs filled with dog biscuits and other treats that are scattered in a large field.

“We can’t use plastic eggs because the dogs could choke on them,” Lane said.

About 25 Bradley University students spent last weekend at the camp making the papier-mache eggs, which Lane likened to small piñatas.

“We make hundreds of them, and the dogs can basically just destroy the piñata on the ground to get to the treats,” Lane said.

A pug costumed in a kilt licks its chops at last year’s Doggie Easter Egg Hunt at Camp Wokanda in Chillicothe. This year’s event on March 31 will include a costume contest with prizes, games for the whole family, face-painting, doggie ice cream cones, bacon bubbles and a canine kissing booth. (Photo courtesy of Camp Wokanda)

The family-friendly event will also feature a costume contest with prizes, games for the whole family, face-painting, doggie ice cream cones, bacon bubbles for dogs to chase and a kissing booth with dogs as the kissers.

“Their owners volunteered them for the kissing booth because they are great kissers/lickers,” Lane said.

The dog owners will also have a chance to win gift basket door prizes that will include maple syrup made at Camp Wokanda. The syrup will be sold for the first time at this year’s annual Maple Syrup Workshop and Pancake Breakfast on April 21.

“There’s plenty of parking and plenty of room,” Lane said. “People don’t need to be concerned if they think their dog might be too nervous or react poorly to other dogs, because the space we do it in is so big. The first year I did this event as a volunteer I expected dogs to be growling at each other, but there was nothing like that at all.”

Lane said kids especially seem to enjoy bringing their dogs to what seems like a party. “It’s just impressive how people care for their dogs so much,” she said. “The people who come out really interact with each other and trade stories about their dogs, and that’s what’s fun. The dogs seem more interested in meeting each other, but they have a blast ‘finding’ the eggs.”

Lisa Mullins of Germantown Hills said she had a lot of fun at last year’s Doggie Easter Egg Hunt with her children, Keegan and Kassidy, and their dogs, Mitch and Hershey. “This event is a wonderful opportunity to bring out your furry friends to enjoy the beginning of spring, make new friends and spark their sense of adventure with the egg hunt,” she said. “It’s fun for the whole family.”

Lane has about 20 volunteers lined up to help at the egg hunt but would welcome more help at this event or other Camp Wokanda activities.

Kids and adults hold tight to their dogs’ leashes as the pups sniff the ground for papier-mache eggs filled with dog biscuits and other treats at Camp Wokanda’s annual Doggie Easter Egg Hunt last year. This year’s hunt on March 31 is a drop-in event with no pre-registration required. (Photo courtesy of Camp Wokanda)

“We definitely depend on volunteers,” Lane said of the former Boy Scout camp. “This year we’re going to try developing some native gardens and we’re looking for more opportunities for what I call passive programming that people could help with.  That would be where people could enjoy program opportunities without me standing there having a class, such as little lending library with nature books and guides people could borrow or a nature lab on a Saturday morning with a little craft they could do. We’re just starting to explore things like that.”

The camp is also developing a trail monitor program in which volunteers hiking the trails would report any hazards or anything that needs attention.

“People think this is still a Boy Scout camp,” Lane said. “The Boy Scouts absolutely still camp here, but so do Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls and families.”

The camp features four cabins that sleep 12 and four that sleep 20, as well as a lodge and dining hall that can be rented. The camp trails are open to the public at no cost. The camp also hosts events such as weddings and reenactments.

For more information about Camp Wokanda or the Doggie Easter Egg Hunt, call Lane at (309) 579-2157 or email her at clane@peoriaparks.org. The hunt will be moved indoors if inclement weather strikes.


–Special Easter Egg hunt offers canines a dog gone good time–