They just couldn’t wait.
Dozens of eager youngsters darted onto the soccer field at Clover Dell Park before the signal was given to retrieve the first load of more than 3,000 Ping-Pong balls dropped by an airplane. The premature collections led to chaos Saturday at the first Sedalia Parks Department Snowball Hunt.
The plan was for the airplane to make two drops, after which the children would be released onto the field at the sound of a whistle. The pilot instead made his second drop near a wooded area.
Parks Department Recreation Superintendent Amy Epple said she wasn’t expecting such a big crowd. She had previously organized a snowball drop in Warrensburg, where the largest turnout was 125.
About 1,000 pool passes were handed out to children attending. Other prizes were given to those who found specially marked balls.
Samantha Bradley, of Sedalia, brought her two children, ages 5 and 1, to the event.
“I thought it would be something fun for them,” Bradley said. “They’ve been cooped up too long for the winter.”
Bradley was unhappy her children were unable to participate because they were waiting for the second drop.
“I think it was very unorganized,” she said. “It’s kind of disappointing for the kids who followed the rules.”
Not everyone was disappointed.
“It was totally awesome,” said Lincoln Ditzfeld, 4.
“I got three (balls),” said friend Keaton Mateja, 5.
Lisa Ditzfeld said she thought the Snowball Hunt was a good way to get children outside.
“It’s just neat they’re finding things for the kids to do,” she said.
More than a half hour before the event, vehicles were bumper-to-bumper for about a mile leading to the park on West 32nd Street. Older children and adults carrying little ones got out of cars and started walking in order to make it to the snowball drop on time.
Mary Pringle’s daughter, Kayla Fletcher, and her friend walked to the park while Pringle waited in traffic.
“This is crazy,” Pringle said. “This is a lot of people.”
The pilot briefly delayed the initial drop to give people more time to get into the park.