Friday, April 12

New Windsor inn brings back full Easter egg hunt experience after COVID-19 pandemic – Baltimore Sun

While the COVID-19 pandemic deprived many kids of fun childhood experiences, one Carroll County couple has worked to make sure Easter isn’t one of them.

Seasons at Magnolia Manor, formerly the Yellow Turtle Inn, is a New Windsor bed-and-breakfast and events venue owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jennifer Haddaway.

The couple bought the inn six years ago and transformed it along the way.

Jeff and Jennifer host several special events for kids around the holidays at Magnolia Manor, including an annual Easter Egg Hunt in the spring.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a stay-at-home order in Maryland, which remained in effect through the Easter holiday.

“We understood what was going on, but the children didn’t,” Jennifer said. “We had begun advertising our April egg hunt on March 2 and by March 14, we had children registered by parents to attend the event, which was to take place three weeks later on April 4. … We, along with everyone else, hoped the order wouldn’t last long, but it just didn’t happen that way.”

As Easter approached, the Haddaways came up with the idea of ​​having the Easter Bunny travel door to door to all the egg hunt registrants’ homes since they could not come to Magnolia Manor.

Their first request to be allowed to take the bunny around was denied by the then-mayor of the town because of pandemic unknowns and fear that there was no safe way to host Easter that year, even creatively.

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Their idea required those trips, so the couple went to the governor’s office to make their plea.

Soon after, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office proclaimed the Easter Bunny to be an essential employee on Easter Sunday. The Haddaways’ bunny could “roam the state bringing Easter happiness and joy to Marylanders of all ages,” the proclamation declared.

As soon as the proclamation was public, the Haddaways and their team went to work filling 198 individual Easter baskets for every child whose family chose to have them come to their front door.

“Our SUV was loaded to the gills with these Easter baskets, and on Easter Sunday we set out early to get the happiness underway,” Jennifer said. “We started at 7 am and visited children until the sun was down.”

Only two of the 198 families signed up for the original Easter egg hunt chose not to participate, she said.

In addition to leaving baskets on porches, the team also hid Easter eggs around the children’s yards for them to find later.

Margaret Paige, a New Windsor resident, set up a visit from the Haddaways’ bunny for her grandchildren.

“They had the bunny go on the porches and wave through the doors,” she said. “Our grandkids still talk about it and have memories many kids lost that year.”

This year was the first time the Paiges weren’t able to participate in Magnolia’s Easter egg hunt, having to pass because of health issues. But after reaching out to Jennifer, a visit was set up with the Easter Bunny, who brought a coloring book and crayons and an early Easter basket filled with materials used for dying eggs.

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“We never in a million years could have asked for or expected this,” she said. “We don’t have many, if even any, people like this coming into our communities these days.”

Last year, many were still nervous about COVID-19 while children everywhere were missing out on typical childhood experiences, like Easter egg hunts.

For this reason, the Haddaways decided to host their egg hunt but stagger the families through the fields so large groups would be avoided and social distancing would be possible.

The Magnolia crew covered 3 acres with about 10,000 Easter eggs, covering the entirety of the property.

“Families could play, meet the Easter Bunny and take photos, mask free if they wished, but still feel safe and truly enjoy the outdoors and joy of the holiday tradition,” Jennifer said.

At the end of the hunts, the children exchanged their eggs for free gifts and prizes.

“Stars and Stripes Petting Corral [was] with us last year and [will be] this year too. It was so special for the kids to get to meet the farm animals up close and personal,” Jennifer said.

Last year, 92 children were able to participate in the socially distanced event.

Earlier this month, the Haddaways held the first full Easter egg hunt since the beginning of the pandemic. The event drew 150 participants, despite rainy weather.

“It’s been tough for the children … they have no life experience to help walk them through this,” Jennifer said. “Things these kids would normally get to do were taken away during the pandemic, so we gave our piece of the world the opportunity to get those experiences back.”

Ashleigh Klein, an employee at Seasons at Magnolia Manor, said Jennifer and Jeff are two of the most selfless people she knows.

“The Haddaways have done so much for the community and town, from donating money to local businesses and fundraising to having Easter egg hunts for the children.”

Seasons at Magnolia Manor also hosts annual Halloween and Christmas events for kids. Even through COVID, they found unique ways to make these events safe for all.

“I myself have a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old and they love coming to the events,” Klein said.

Shane Weeks, a family friend of Jennifer and Jeff, called Seasons at Magnolia Manor a “hidden gem.”

“They truly care about the community,” he said. “This isn’t a business for them.”

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