In an effort to get more residents to explore Sherman’s green spaces, the city’s parks and recreation department held its annual candy cane hunt Saturday at Pecan Grove West Park.

The event drew dozens of children and their families to the park, where they scrambled to pick up between 3,000 and 4,000 candy canes. Following the competition, children were invited to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, pose for photos, play on the playground and create holiday-themed arts and crafts.

“We’re really trying to get the kids out and to enjoy the parks,” Sherman Parks and Recreation Aquatics Specialist and event organizer Rachel Baker said.

Baker said the department’s employees prepared for the hunt by purchasing the treats, organizing a visit from the Claus family and wrapping presents.

One parent who heard about the candy cane hunt was Craig Brewster. Accompanied by his 5-year-old son, Brewster said this year’s hunt wasn’t their first and likely wouldn’t be their last.

“We did it when he was three, and he … still talks about it all the time,” Brewster said. “So yeah, we’re trying to make this a tradition.”

Brewster said the event was a great opportunity to explore the park and buck the holiday trends that consume most this time of year.

“Everybody just wants to go to the mall or go shopping instead of getting out and doing stuff outside. “But at the stores, you’re not really talking to anybody or interacting with them. Here, you get to spend time with people and have conversations. And it’s really fun. Why have places like this and not enjoy them?”

With thousands of candy canes spread out through the park, Brewster said he’d keep a close eye on his young son’s sweet stash and how fast he made it disappear.

“I know how to space it out enough so he’s not crashing here in an hour,” Brewster said.

With the candy cane hunt the parks and recreation department’s last event of the year, Baker said she and her co-workers were already thinking about their many 2018 endeavors. Baker said the year ahead would be a busy one for the department and if its employees could get anything for Christmas it would be just a little more time to get everything in place.

“More hours in the day would be great,” Baker said. “We’re really busy and we’ve got a lot of new things coming to this area. We’ve got some grants, so we’re building bigger and better parks and rebuilding and remodeling and organizing new activities.”