By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
When it comes to the holidays, there may be only one other icon who comes close to matching the star power of Santa Claus.
The Easter Bunny.
Resplendent in a lavender and pink outfit that was topped off with a stylish hat tucked over his floppy ears, the Easter Bunny made a splashy arrival in Sea Isle City on Saturday amid cheers from hundreds of adoring children.
Unlike his cousin, Peter Cottontail, who went hopping down the bunny trail, the Easter Bunny cruised into town aboard a red fire truck during a socially distanced parade that made its way up Landis Avenue from First Street to 94th Street and then back to John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Due to the pandemic, Sea Isle was forced to cancel its popular children’s egg hunt that usually serves as a centerpiece of its family-friendly Easter events each year.
City officials, though, came up with the idea for a socially distanced parade, safely spread out along Landis Avenue and led by the Easter Bunny, to salvage the holiday for the children.
“Unfortunately, we had to cancel the regular Easter program. This was something we thought would make people happy as they celebrated Easter in Sea Isle City,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said of the parade.
Sarah and Michael Leib, along with their sons, Owen, 8, and Connor, 5, said the Easter parade was one of the highlights of the family’s activity-packed holiday weekend at the shore.
The Leibs, who live in Medford, N.J., were staying at a friend’s house in Sea Isle for the weekend.
“We’re going to take a walk on the beach and eat some yummy food,” Michael Leib said of some of the family activities.
“We’re also going to have an egg hunt on the beach,” he added.
Connor perked up when he heard his dad mention the egg hunt.
“I want to find a golden egg,” Connor exclaimed as his parents smiled.
But first, the Leibs wanted to see the Easter Bunny. They staked out a prime spot at the corner of Landis Avenue and JFK Boulevard to watch the bunny pass by in a colorful procession of fire trucks and police vehicles flashing their lights and blaring their sirens.
Hundreds of people lining the sidewalks along the parade route waved to the Easter Bunny and called out to him while they snapped photos and captured video on their cellphones.
Shortly before the parade began, 3-year-old twin brothers Jackson and Patrick Ready and their 15-month-old sister, Adelyn, were paid a special visit by the Easter Bunny at the Sea Isle fire station.
The Easter Bunny danced while approaching the red toy wagon that Jackson and Patrick were riding in and was pulled by their father, Tom Ready, a Sea Isle police sergeant.
Tom Ready and his wife, Loren, asked the kids what they wanted from the Easter Bunny.
“Eggs!” Patrick blurted out while munching on a piece of candy.
Patrick paused for a moment and then told his parents that he also wanted some toy dinosaurs.
“Dinosaurs?” his dad asked. “What about toys and candy?”
Standing nearby, the Easter Bunny nodded his head when he heard Patrick’s request. No doubt the famous bunny will be sure to put some toys and candy in Patrick’s Easter basket, along with the baskets of other kids on Easter Sunday.