An Easter egg hunt event organized by the Pez candy company devolved into a violent melee as parents and children stormed the fields before they were instructed to do so.
The chaos happened at the third annual Easter egg hunt at the Pez Visitor Center in Orange, Connecticut, on March 26, according to WFSB. Event organizers had hidden more than 9,000 eggs on three different fields with the goal of having 15-minute staggered start times for each age group.
However, the free event, which was attended by hundreds of people, quickly got out of control.
"When it came time at like 10:30 a.m., the parents just bum-rushed that area," West Haven resident Nicole Welch, who attended the event with her 4-year-old son, told WFSB.
The unruly crowd reportedly rushed the first field and removed all of the eggs hidden there before moving on to the second and third fields, although they had not yet been directed to begin searching by event organizers.
"We started talking to people and say, 'Hey this is supposed to start at certain time,'" Pez General Manager Shawn Peterson said. "Well that lasted about a minute and everyone just rushed the field and took everything."
Welch said that children were trampled and knocked over by adults and eggs stolen out of baskets during the frenzied search.
"I'm not going to take my kids where they don't consider the safety of my kids in any way, shape, or form," Welch said.
She added that her son was crying hysterically with a broken basket by the end of the event.
"We sincerely tried our best to create a fun, free activity for everyone to enjoy," Pez officials said in a statement on March 26.
"Due to the actions of a few, the good intent quickly turned into a mess," the statement continued. "I would like to sincerely apologize to each of our guests, this was not something created to frustrate or make people angry. We only wanted to do good for the local community."
According to the statement, Pez officials handed out free candy and coupons to compensate for the turn of events.
Several people have since posted comments expressing their disappointment and condemning the behavior of the event-goers on Pez's Facebook page.
"Grow up folks and teach your kids some responsibility by acting like mature adults not rabid wolves," one poster wrote on Pez's March 29 Easter Facebook post.
"Pez didn't do this," another commenter posted. "It was the 'looting' mentality of the parents who thought they could get as much as they wanted, no matter what the cost."
Police were not called to the event but spoke to company officials afterwards, WFSB notes. No injuries were reported at the time.
Pez has not said whether it will host another egg hunt next year.