Outlandish hats go on display at NYC Easter parade

Elaborate bonnets galore at the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue (April 4,2010). (Rachel Geylin)

April 4, 2010 1:27:04 PM PDT
Rosemary Ponzo came to the Easter parade decked out as Judy Garland in a lavish black tulle hat with hot pink ostrich features in tribute to the actress, who immortalized the outlandish Easter bonnet display in a 1948 movie opposite Fred Astaire. The annual event along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue is more of a leisurely stroll than a parade, with smiling folks - and pets, too - strutting their homemade headgear concoctions as others snap their pictures or pose with them.

Nicki Gallas brought her large toy poodle, Maisie, dressed up in a flower bonnet and pinafore. Ensconced inside a makeshift bicycle basket, he happily posed for anyone who wanted to take his picture.

Gallas, who's been coming to the parade for 30 years, also brought along her Eastern box turtle, Tuck, but left his cowboy hat at home because "it was too much to deal with."

But, holding him up at the parade Sunday, she added: "He'd be in his shell if he didn't love it."

The Easter parade is a tradition that dates back more than 100 years. It originally was a chance for prosperous New Yorkers to strut their finery after attending services at one of the churches on Fifth Avenue. Garland and Astaire immortalized it in the musical "Easter Parade."

Ponzo, a costume designer, completed her Garland outfit with a black cape, studded hose, black ankle boots, purple fingerless gloves, Armani jeweled wrist cuffs and long false eyelashes.

German tourists Anna Tauck and Leila Maxhuni, both from Hamburg, were delighted to come across the parade.

"All the costumes, they all look amazing," said Tauck, who was in New York with her friend to attend an international student conference at the United Nations.

"We have nothing like this in Germany," said Maxhuni. "I'm so happy to be here."

Canadian tourist Joanna Bubinska was attending the parade for the first time but came prepared wearing a chapeau with a bird cage and black paper cat trying to get at it on her head. She said she had heard about the parade back home in Kitchener, southwest of Toronto, and wanted to participate.

"It's great," she said. "Unfortunately, we don't have anything like this (in Canada)."

Brooklyn resident Maria Campanella could barely keep her head straight. Her bonnet, weighing about 15 pounds, was a tall cross anchored to an inverted basket made of 12 egg cartons filled with plastic colored eggs. Her goddaughter, Lauren Juliano, also of Brooklyn, sported a slightly smaller version filled with black and white eggs.

"They're in memory of my father," Campanella said of the hats. "This is the first Easter without him."

The only reminder that the Catholic Church is under siege for recent revelations regarding sex abuse was a handful of protesters opposite St. Patrick's Cathedral.

"Preaching Intolerance One Fondle at a Time" and Take Back the Church. Fire the Pope," read some of their placards.