Chaos erupted when parents rushed the fields at an annual PEZ Easter egg hunt in Orange, Connecticut, causing the event to end early, the visitor center's general manager told NBC Connecticut.
Staff had laid out nearly 10,000 eggs over three fields at the PEZ visitor center and planned three start times for different age groups, but some parents ignored that plan, rushing the fields early, trampling signs and shoving other participants. One woman said an adult injured her grandchild's nose.
"My grandson ended up with a bloody [nose] from an ADULT in the 9-12 year old section knocking into him!!!! Where was PEZ personnel?? Where was the safety of our children in your thought process??" Jennifer Barden-Moore wrote on Facebook.
A woman from West Haven said she was separated from her son and later found him in tears.
"It was ridiculous. The parents were literally a poster for everything not to do," said West Haven mom Nicole Welch.
"By the time I found my 4-year-old, he was hysterically crying," she added.
Her son, Vincent, described the scene in his own words.
"Somebody pushed me over and take my eggs and it's very rude of them and they broke my bucket," Vincent recalled.
The event — the third annual — drew more participants this year than the candy maker had expected. More than 1,000 people attended, according to Shawn Peterson, the general manager of the PEZ visitor center.
Peterson said this year, the parents "took over," flooding the "kids only" fields and going on to the next hunt well before the designated start times. The signs on each field were taken or trampled on, Peterson said.
"I take this personally. I don’t want this to be a reflection of the brand," said Peterson. "It was a fun thing up until this point."
PEZ said its staff pleaded with parents to follow the rules, but the staff was overwhelmed. He said staffing was the same as in previous years, with one employee at each hunt field, and this weekend's incident was the first.
The company released an updated statement Monday.
"People chose to ignore staff direction and entered the fields before the posted starting times, removing everything well before the activity was to begin. Due to the actions of a few, the good intent quickly turned into a disappointment," the statement read.
Parents stormed the company's Facebook page with concerns and frustrations about the lack of order.
One father who commented on Facebook said his 5-year-old was nearly trampled by other adults despite the presence of “no adult” signs.
Peterson said the company deliberately refrained from advertising the event widely in an effort to keep the number of attendants low. No one should have left empty handed, the company said. When PEZ noticed the number of people, staff offered parents free coupons and candy inside the venue.
"We sincerely tried our best to create a fun, free activity for everyone to enjoy and greatly appreciate the overwhelming support we have received not only locally, but nationally and internationally as well," the PEZ statement concluded.