On April 1 (Easter Sunday) at 1 p.m., many Taos area youngsters will flock to Kit Carson Park for the annual Easter egg hunt. They don't realize all the work and planning that accompanies the fun.
Behind the scenes work on the Easter egg hunt begins in January when the League of Latin American Citizens - Council 78, known popularly as LULAC, meets to plan festivities for the coming year.
"I can't picture a child's Easter without an Easter egg hunt," said LULAC council president Orlando Vigil. "The rest of the LULAC and others who help feel the same way, so we continue the tradition. It's worth the work when we see the looks on the children's faces. This is a worthwhile, good tradition."
The hunt offers edible treats plus prizes for the participants in four age groups: 1-3 years of age; 4-6 years; 7-9 years; and10 and over. Last year, organizers offered 5,000 colored eggs and 2,000 plastic eggs.
Children who find a plastic egg redeem it for a prize if the interior of the egg does not include one. Some of the prizes include filled baskets.
The organizers hope to offer identical items this year, but the offerings depend on donations. Last year, 200 baskets and assorted prizes appropriate for different age groups comprised the special gifts.
The baskets included candy, stuffed animals and Capri Sun drinks. Each age group enjoyed the offering of one golden egg, redeemable for a special prize.
The day prior to the hunt is egg coloring day. Volunteers, young and old alike, will gather at the Juan I. Gonzales Agriculture Building at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 31 to help boil and color the eggs.
Using eight big pots, the group boils 200 eggs at a time. Then, the cooling process begins, and the eggs eventually reach water baths with coloring to dye the final products.
Vigil laughed as he described the process. "The kids have free range to color and decorate," he said. "They start by wearing gloves, and little by little, the gloves come off. They enjoy themselves and have fun, and that's what egg coloring day is all about. Other organizations and individuals also help with the preparation."
A local custom oftentimes calls for sharing food at gatherings, and egg coloring day remains no exception. Following the work and camaraderie, volunteers complete plans for the next day.
On Easter egg hunt day, volunteers place eggs at the designated premises and organize the special prizes. "The police department, the mayor and Orlando Santistevan help, too. It is only if we all work together that we' ll have a successful event for the children of the community," said Vigil.
LULAC, originally founded to foster rights for Hispanics, does not discriminate, and the group's membership is open to other ethnic groups. Each local organization sponsors special projects, and Council 78 of Taos focuses on youth. When Vigil first joined, he served as a member. After three years, he accepted the presidency. Vigil has participated in the organization for the past 10 years.
Vigil also recalled other LULAC projects for area youth. The organization furnished some of the monetary prizes for the Cesar Chavez essay and poster contests. In addition, the LULAC Council 78 sponsored the annual circus but suspended the activity due to animal rights concerns brought forth by the nonprofit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. LULAC Council 78 also offers a scholarship, depending on the availability of funds.
When he's not attending to LULAC business, Vigil enjoys spending time with his family. His father, the late Orlando Vigil, passed away several years ago, and Orlando Jr.'s mother Lupita resides in Arroyo Hondo. The third of four children, Orlando Vigil Jr. listed the following siblings: Matthew (Lisa); Darrell (Lisa); and Mario (Jessica). Vigil and his partner Vanessa live in Arroyo Hondo.
Orlando's stepchildren are Sean Riggs and Brittany Sanders.
Many grocery shoppers no doubt recall Vigil's smiling face at Super Save, where he serves as meat market manager. He originally worked at Raley's Meat Market for four years and at Albertson's for two years. Vigil's service at Super Save occurred over a 13-year period.
Before working as a butcher, Vigil worked as a cook at the Taos Inn and other restaurants for 15 years. He lends his culinary skills for charitable purposes, family and friends whenever possible.
In his spare time, Orlando Vigil enjoys cooking Northern New Mexico cuisine, such as red chile and green chile stew. He also enjoys preparing enchiladas, fajitas and posole.
When he wants to clear his mind, the LULAC president explores his creative side through woodworking. He makes furniture and crosses, but time has not permitted him to complete a cross that requires the final touches. Because of time constraints, Vigil has not fished recently, but it's an activity he enjoys.
Vigil ended the interview by reminding Taoseños that LULAC is a nonprofit. "We rely on members and other individuals and organizations to help. Our future plans are to expand this wonderful project for the children of Taos. Donations are gladly accepted and appreciated. We don't keep the donations; we share with the youngsters."
"After all, the Easter egg hunt is for the kids."
If anyone wishes to donate, help, or offer comments or suggestions to make the event bigger and better, please call Vigil at (575) 770-6162 and leave a message or call Mark Abeyta at 741-0740.