An Easter egg hunt, face painting, pony and unicorn rides will be among the festivities for the Children's Education Center of the Islands 23rd annual Spring Festival on Saturday, April 15, from 9 to 11 a.m.
The festival will take place at Sanibel Community Park which is right next to the Sanibel Community House. The free Easter egg hunt will start promptly at 9 a.m. and will be divided into three groups: Ages 2 and under, 2 to 4 and 5 and above.
"This year we have 4,000 eggs," said Cindy DeCosta, director of the Children's Education Center of the Islands. "Everyone is guaranteed to get plenty of eggs."
The egg hunt will be followed by games, arts and crafts, a bounce house and a slide for the kids. A $10 wristband will grant access to all the fun activities CECI has planned. Adults get in free. The Easter bunny will make an appearance at 10 a.m., allowing parents to get some free pictures taken.
There will be a concession stand selling hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn, soda, chips water and juice boxes.
This year, 60 silent auction items will be up for grabs. Some of the items include local pottery, a painting party with artist Laura Ball, gift certificates for island restaurants, stuffed animals, toys and two baskets of stuffed Easter eggs.
"We try to keep a lot of the items local," DeCosta said.
Attendees will have until 4 p.m. to pick up their silent auction items. All proceeds from the event will go towards their scholarship fund.
"We have about 35 to 40 percent of our kids on scholarships of varying degrees," DeCosta said.
DeCosta said that about $12,000 was raised at the festival last year. One of her favorite parts about the event is seeing all of the alumni return.
"Once they go to the big school, unless I'm dropping my kids off at the big school, I don't get to see those kids anymore or see how much they've grown. It's a fun family atmosphere, even these families I don't know I can see they're enjoying it," DeCosta said.
CECI was founded in 1974 and is a non-profit school for children ages 18 months to 5 years old. For the last few years, the center has focused their curriculum around nature. Recently, they have traded out their plastic toys for wooden blocks.
"Everything is coming back down to nature and neutral colors," DeCosta said. "We have no electronics here and we're not going to have any electronics here."
The children stay out for an hour and a half in the morning and the kids who stay until 5 p.m. go outside again for two hours. DeCosta tries to get the kids outside as much as possible.
Snacks at the center includes fruits, vegetables and whole wheats. DeCosta tries to stay away from yogurt tubes and sugary foods. DeCosta has also incorporated a small garden for her students with potatoes, radishes and carrots. The center also has chickens and rabbits in a contained area so the kids can see them up close.
"The kids think the bunnies are really cool and they're helping to teach them responsibility," DeCosta said.
For questions about the center or Spring Festival, call (239) 472-4538.