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At CIA at Copia, Sunday was a time to celebrate the approach of Easter – and of a spring season that had felt tardy in its arrival to the Napa Valley.

After a week marked by frequent rain and chilly nights, the sun finally peeked through the clouds over Napa’s Oxbow district as families headed to the Copia food, wine and art center for its second annual Easter egg hunt, where more than 260 children swept the grounds clean of candy- and toy-filled plastic eggs within seconds. Afterward, the Culinary Institute of America continued its springtime celebration by launching the Bud Break Festival, a time for younger Napans to learn about food plants, gardening and the world of green growing things.

“We wanted to do something in honor of the Napa Valley but also in honor of agriculture,” said Maryam Ahmed, spokesperson for the culinary institute’s public programs in California, of the festival Copia added to the Easter egg hunt that debuted in 2017 near downtown First Street.

Copia’s egg scramble has become an Easter-season focus for local families after the withdrawal in February of the Active 20-30 Club, which ended its sponsorship of a community egg hunt that attracted about 1,000 youths to Kennedy Park last April and had been staged for three decades. The club, which is refocusing its mission on children with disabilities, announced an invitation-only Easter egg hunt for such youngsters in partnership with ParentsCAN.

So many parents registered their children for Sunday’s egg-hunting event that organizers split them into two groups on opposite sides of the Copia building, with about 85 older children in the front and 180 others 5 and younger waiting at the lip of the grassy amphitheater in back.

At the “go” signal at 10 a.m., youngsters immediately sprang forward, holding tiny baskets and swiping at any blue, orange or yellow plastic orb within reach. In a seeming instant, the turf had been swept clean of all its prize-filled eggs – a denuding that left one father almost in awe.

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“That was like a world record – must have been close to 12 seconds,” Zach Luman of Napa said afterward, after his 2-year-old son emerged with Tootsie Rolls and Smarties from the five eggs he had grabbed. “I’ve never seen 500 eggs disappear so quickly before.”

The rest of the day’s celebration was much less frenetic, as booths set out among the Copia gardens near First Street provided places to learn about cover crops and early-spring gardening from Master Gardeners, or enjoy wines from the surrounding Napa Valley.

Many families found their way to Carrie Strohl, a gardening and plant science instructor at Pueblo Vista Magnet School who invited youngsters to create “Mustard Monsters” under her guidance. Wooden cylinders wrapped in newspaper were filled with soil and pinhead-size mustard seeds, which children would then take home to water until the “monsters” – so named from their wooden craft sticks with painted-on faces and a single eye – produced green shoots and the yellow blossoms that mark the end of winter across wine country.

“I want them to see gardening as fun: working in the dirt, getting into the soil,” said Strohl, who advises local teachers in creating school gardens. “I want them to take away from today that when you see the (seasonal) cycles, instead of people mastering nature, that we’re a part of it.”

As 5-year-old Julia Sherer set to work on one such tiny planter, her mother, Yvette, hoped the exercise would encourage an appreciation of outdoor life, at their Napa home and beyond. “We have a garden at home and it’s important that she learn how things bloom, and how to get involved in the community with something she might love and support someday,” she said.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.