After the Central Church Easter egg drop on the soccer fields at Carroll Middle School, event emcee Darrin Kozak gave kids the go-ahead to begin their scramble.
After the Central Church Easter egg drop on the soccer fields at Carroll Middle School, event emcee Darrin Kozak gave kids the go-ahead to begin their scramble.

March 28, 2016

Gauge wind velocity and direction along with helicopter speed, altitude and movement. Those were keys for Kyle and Brad Johnson to blanketing soccer fields near Carroll Middle School with thousands of plastic Easter eggs filled with candy from their Bell 206 JetRanger Saturday afternoon.

The Easter egg drop sponsored by Central Church was likely a first-ever such event for Carroll. And maybe now Kyle and Brad can add it to their Johnson Flying Service website that touts their family-owned helicopter, ag-spraying service based in Exira.

“As far as in Iowa,” Kyle said in a phone interview Sunday evening, “I would venture to say it (Easter egg drop) probably hasn’t been done more than a few times. For one, there aren’t many helicopter operators in the state and it’s not a usual deal. You have to have a good-size area. There (Carroll) it was pretty much perfect. It gave us enough area to time the drop. We weren’t trying to drop into a 50-foot circle or that kind of deal. It worked out really well. You definitely have to have a big enough space.”

For the Johnsons, this was their first Easter egg drop, and Kyle said, “I thought it went really well. I wasn’t sure on the eggs. I wasn’t sure how far they were going to drift and fall from that height. But when my brother (Brad) dumped them out, they didn’t move very much (from course), which was good.”

He said their goal was “to drop the eggs as even as possible throughout the field.”

The highly anticipated drop almost didn’t happen because of rain that hit Exira — about 30 miles south of Carroll — an hour before the scheduled 1 p.m. event.

Central Church Associate Pastor Nick Gorden, who coordinated the event, related, “At noon today the helicopter (fliers) called and said they didn’t think they could make it because it was raining like this in Exira and he didn’t know whether he could fly in it. He called back at 12:30 and said clouds had lifted and God must be watching over us. They made it here, so we got lucky.”

Rain in Carroll began to pick up shortly before the drop, as hundreds of children jammed the sidelines at the soccer fields. The event was divided into three age groups — 2 and under, 3- and 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds through third-graders.

Central Church members had already laid out 14,000 eggs on the fields before the Johnsons dropped another 9,000, which required taking a few passes. Immediately on arriving, the Johnsons landed their helicopter northwest of the soccer fields to load eggs.

Kyle, 29, and Brad, 26, were accompanied on the flight by their dad, Brian, who began Johnson Flying Service about 35 years ago, and their sister Laura, 20. During the drop, Brian was on the ground and stayed in radio communication with Kyle, advising him on altitude and where to line up the drop. Brad dumped the eggs from the back of the helicopter, and Laura sat up front with Kyle, serving as ballast and taking video.

Kyle said he flew over the fields at about 50 feet altitude and 20 mph. At that speed, he said, he also had to compensate for movement of the helicopter.

The Bell 206 JetRanger is a turbine-powered craft with seating for pilot and co-pilot in front and three passengers in back. The Johnsons also own a Bell 47 with single bench seat for three passengers.

Kyle said about the only other jobs the business has done outside of ag spraying have been news-photo shots of the Omaha skyline.

“Maybe we’ll have to do more of this (Easter egg drops) after this deal,” Kyle said.

He said of the view of the event from the air, “There were a lot of people. I wasn’t sure how many people were going to show. When I talked to Nick Gorden, who was coordinating the event with Central Church, he said there were a ton of people, and he was right. And there probably would have been more if the weather had been nicer, but given the weather condition, I thought it was a very good crowd.”

The rain didn’t dampen enthusiasm. As soon the event’s emcee, Darrin Kozak, gave the go-ahead, children raced across the fields, collecting the eggs within a few minutes.

For Keri Ehlers of Carroll and her 9-year-old daughter, Danica, this was their first year at the Central Church event, and Keri said they were drawn specifically by a Daily Times Herald story about the egg drop.

“It was amazing. It was fun,” said Keri. “It was something else to see — dropping the eggs, how low they got and how many eggs they dropped out. I’m surprised they didn’t fly all over the place, really. I’m surprised I didn’t get hit because I was down there recording it, too.”

For Danica, a third-grader at Ar-We-Va, this wasn’t the first time she’s seen a helicopter, but she said, “It was fun because you got to see a helicopter drop the eggs out.”

Keri and Danica’s participation represent the achievement of Central Church’s goal with the egg drop.

Associate Pastor Gorden said, “I think we reached a lot of people. It’s great for the community, bringing a lot of people together. You look around and you have a lot of people from a lot of different churches just ‘fellowshipping.’ That was our biggest push, just to get people out and talking to each other, give them something to talk about.”

Gorden said of the community excitement for the event and the close call on it being called off because of the weather, “We’re very thankful it worked out and we were able to make it happen. The weather cooperated. It (rain) held off just long enough. It was a really good turnout. There are a lot of happy kids.”

Dozens of kids were made even happier. Besides more than 20,000 eggs filled with candy, some contained numbered tokens that were could be redeemed for a prizes. Central Church, with help of some donations from the community, also gave away 40 bicycles, eight scooters, 20 hula hoops and 300 prize bags.

Not only were the kids winners, but there was also a drawing for prizes for adults ranging up to electronic devices, a $25 Hy-Vee gift card, other gift cards and a 32-inch TV.

The church also served a free meal including pulled-pork sandwiches and hot dogs.