The host counted down: 10 … 9 … 8 …
At zero, 6-year-old Jason Cluchey of Trimble, Mo., took off into the jungle gym beneath the antique biplane at the second annual Eggstravaganza Easter egg hunt held Saturday morning inside Science City at Union Station.
“This is insane,” said his mother, 35-year-old Brooke Cluchey, as she shot cellphone video of her boy scrambling amid hundreds and hundreds of other children who, with their parents, jammed nearly every square foot of the interactive museum in search of 3,000 plastic eggs filled with candy.
“Get up there, Jason!” she said, cheering him on, pointing out eggs. “Hurry. Hurry. Behind you! Behind you! Next to your head!”
Jason was far from the only one with reason to be elated Saturday as attendance at the event was likely to double that in 2014, said Science City director of programming Christy Nitsche.
Last year, 700 people attended the event. This year, Science City had presold that many tickets. By the start of the egg hunt, attendance was already at 1,200, with a line of adults and children extending the length of Union Station’s north hall.
The popularity of the 10 a.m. to noon event, organizers said, is illustrative of the continuing turnaround Science City has experienced over the last five years, but particularly in the last three, as the station worked to create a steady stream of new programs and events. In the last three years, said Michael Tritt, chief marketing officer for the nonprofit, half of the space inside Science City has been overhauled, much of it replaced with new exhibits or attractions made possible by more than $5 million in donations from the Burns & McDonnell Foundation and in-kind services from the company.
Two interactive exhibits that opened last year — Every Last Drop, focusing on water, and Genetics: Unlock the Code — cost about $1 million.
Whereas Science City in 2010 counted 1,813 households, or about 7,300 adults and children, as paid members, the tally currently is at 5,680 households, or 23,000 members.
On Saturday, the focus was all on eggs. After the hunt, visitors played at the exhibits or took part in activities that included coloring Easter eggs, mastering the perfect hard-boiled egg, baking cookies with egg whites, and making kites and pinwheels. Children lined up to have their picture taken with the Easter bunny, whose massive size is hard to explain scientifically.
First, at 10 a.m., there was that rush for the plastic eggs.
“I’m going to get 1,000,” Andrew Gilmore, 5, of Kansas City, said in the minutes before he and others were let loose.
Said his mother, “He’s serious.”