- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 16, 2006

Good cheer has triumphed this Easter. For the most part, Americans have ignored those who would weight the day with agenda: The “Easter” designation still rules on bonnets, eggs, bunnies, baskets, buffets and parades across the nation.

Oh, there was maybe an egg cup’s worth of discord out there.

Of the thousands of cities and towns in America, only three — St. Paul, Minn.; Milford, Conn.; and Alpharetta, Ga. — made minor headlines after officials banned mention of Easter in public venues. Several Asian-American groups in San Diego took issue with Target stores for selling “Easter Haiku” greeting cards depicting grinning buck-toothed bunnies in coolie hats. Sundry authors and broadcasters also used Easter week to promote cultural fare that questioned Christian beliefs.

An oblivious nation, however, has gone ahead with traditional Easter celebrations intact. Generic “spring” holidays are few in neighborhoods, parks, eateries and boulevards as 76 percent of Americans will celebrate Easter today, according to the official “Easter Forecast” from the National Retail Federation.

The Easter Bunny rather than the spring rabbit arrived by firetruck yesterday to greet children in Lynnwood, Wash, and Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, Mich. — which claims to be the nation’s largest family-owned restaurant — will stage its much heralded Easter buffet, not the feast of the vernal equinox.

In some cases, Easter gets monumental, indeed.

Stone Mountain Park in Georgia, for instance, now lays claim to the World’s Largest Easter Egg Hunt, staged last Sunday and entered into the Guinness World Records. More than 300,000 eggs were involved, not to mention 10,000 children.

Americans will go through a billion marshmallow Peeps today, though Just Born, the Pennsylvania-based manufacturer, admits the spongy favorites have political undertones. A recent survey of 800 Peeps lovers found that the “person identified most in need of Peeps” was President Bush, cited by 19 percent, followed by New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat.

Peeps spokesman Joseph Villiano also reported that bunnies replaced chicks as the favorite Easter shape this year, “indicating a fundamental shift in the electorate.”

Others track the national Easter sweet tooth. The Virginia-based National Confectioners Association found that 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies were manufactured this year to meet American demand. The group also revealed that three-quarters of Americans eat the ears first.

The group’s separate youth survey found that more than half of the under-12 crowd reach first for the aforementioned bunny in their Easter baskets, followed by marshmallow fare, malted milk balls and jelly beans, with red beans being the favorite. The survey also found that 62 percent of the boys got up before dawn to investigate their baskets, compared with 48 percent of the girls.

Several communities have not forgotten the furred and feathered.

Albuquerque, N.M.; Hannibal and Kansas City, Mo.; Long Beach, Calif.; Little Rock, Ark.; and New York City are among those offering an Easter parade for pooches, preferably in costume and certainly in hats. Not to be outdone, Fort Worth, Texas, and Palm Beach, Fla., offered “Beaster Bonnet” contests, open to stylish dogs, cats, hamsters and parrots.

“Why should the women have all the fun in fashion?” asked the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which printed photographs of the beasts — and their bonnets — in today’s paper.

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