Easter Promenade steps out on South Street

Dale Varga of South Philadelphia, dressed as an Easter Bunny on stilts, celebrates with the crowd.
Dale Varga of South Philadelphia, dressed as an Easter Bunny on stilts, celebrates with the crowd. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 22, 2014

The flamingo hat Anne Marie McElwee grabbed as she headed out Sunday to participate in her first Easter Promenade on South Street blended perfectly with the crowd.

"My friend said, 'Here, you need a funny hat,' " McElwee said as she stood among the crowd of wacky hats and Easter bonnets.

After all, the Easter Promenade, in its 83d year, is probably one of the few parades that embraces the philosophy of "the more mismatched, the better."

Starting with the master of ceremonies, local jeweler Henri David, who had a psychedelic-print jacket, colorful rabbit-pattern pants, and a purple mesh collar with little pastel eggs dangling from it. The Mad Hatter-type hat - feathers and eggs hanging and protruding from it - was half his body size.

"I couldn't decide what color, so I started with purple" and went from there, David said.

Standing in the shadow of two quintessential South Street stores, Condom Kingdom and Fat Tuesday, David and a few large bunnies, including one on stilts, posed with every child, adult, and pet who came up to them.

Touting the Easter Promenade as "the proudest Philadelphia tradition," Mike Harris, executive director of the South Street business district, kicked off the parade at South Street and Passyunk Avenue just before 1 p.m.

As the Philadelphia Freedom Band and big bunnies led the bunny hop down South Street, onlookers took pictures or stared in amusement as adults and children alike hopped past the various South Street establishments.

Veronica Andrulonis, 2, had some trouble hopping in her new white, patent-leather shoes with half-inch heels. So, instead, she strutted, hands on her waist, showing off her flowing white dress.

Adults wore everything from tie-dye shirts proclaiming "Jesus has risen" to pastel dresses and sparkly, prom-worthy gowns. Most families who participated were there to see and be seen.

Others came out for the sheer fun of it.

"I'm too old to care," Sarah Sitzler said as she hopped to the beat of the bunny hop past the grease smell of Jim's Steaks.

This was the second year Sitzler, 33, of South Philadelphia, and her friend Jessica Sobonya, 31, participated in the promenade. Sobonya took a train into town from her home in King of Prussia and planned to stay until early evening.

"It's a great day to be out in Philly," she said.

Once the crowd of a few hundred made it to Headhouse Square at Second and Lombard Streets, the best-dressed contests began.

The judges, who included City Councilman Jim Kenney, sipped mimosas.

Prizes went to a range of categories broken down by age groups - except for pets.

That contest drew an unusual entrant - Franklin, a pet turtle with bunny ears strapped to his body. But his waggle across the stage was not enough. A collie that had bunny ears and Easter toys strapped to its body snagged the best-dressed pet honor.

There was also a bonnet contest. But by that time, McElwee and her flamingo hat were gone. As were many others.


cvargas@phillynews.com

215-854-5520

@InqCVargas

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