Hats off to a great parade

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You needed to be there to feel the joy. It was infectious.

Bellport’s Crazy Easter Hat Parade on Saturday drew over 250 participants raring to display imaginative chapeaus, as well as to congregate with friends in a community gathering that had been COVID-silent for the last two years.

“It’s the sixth annual Crazy Easter Hat Parade,” said Bellport Chamber vice president LuAnn Thompson of the chamber’s event. “And the year before the pandemic, it rained. That’s why the chamber stepped it up this year.”

Crazy-hat wearers gathered in front of the Bellport Fire Department at 11:30 a.m., but early-bird spectators and judges were in the Bellport Apothecary getting their coffee fix, including South Bay Art Association artists and hat judges Loretta Oberheim and Linda Lee, 45 minutes before, wearing their own hats. “We came for the eye candy and hugs,” announced Scott Munson, who stopped in for his java fuel with wife, Patty. Then the conversation ricocheted to the Ecumenical Service on Easter Sunday.

Munson serenaded customers with “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”

(You can’t make this stuff up.)

But back to the parade.

The Easter bunny, 16-year-old Lucy Guarnaschelli, was already waiting for participants and began posing with rescue dogs Luna, Marigold and Kilo, comfortably ensconced in a wagon steered by Aubrey McRedmond and Cody Milne, from East Patchogue. Even their carriage was decorated with flowers, and the pooches, wearing adorable bonnets, already had their numbers for judging.

The dogs, who cooperatively posed, doled out the best compliments… kisses. (P.S.: They won in the Dog Category.)

Elaine Ficarra, all the way from Connecticut, wore a picket-fence hat. Jenette Adams, leader of Daisy Troop 1325, said her young ladies were furnished with wide-brim hats; then they decorated them with a name tag, Easter eggs, and flowers.

Hazel Hatman, 5 and 1/2, was really into bunnies. Besides a hat with yellow and pink flowers, she was holding one, had another on her hat, and her backpack was—you guessed it—a bunny. (She won, too.)

Ray Gaschott wore a green St. Patrick’s Day hat he trimmed with Easter eggs.

Cody Li made his with tissue paper, stickers, and drawings that said “Imagine.”

Graham Rohrmeier, 9, wore a snazzy hat with bunny ears and an Easter basket on top. It was his first Easter parade.

Olga Guevara’s creation was outstanding. “I made everything Easter,” she said. Guevara wasn’t kidding. Her hat towered up in colorful layers with flowers, Easter eggs, carrots, bunnies in a basket, and a butterfly.

Tilly Austin, 94, wore her hat proudly. A Bellporter since 1955, she was accompanied by daughter-in-law Deb, from Rhode Island. She was holding a basket of lollipops. “Would you like one?,” she asked. (Yep!)

The parade was kicked off by the Bellport Fire Department, driven by firefighters Russ Weiboldt with Gary Pils, which proceeded to Bellport Lane.

Bob Morris, Deborah Morosini, and Justin Evans sang Easter songs at the gazebo as chamber vice presidents LuAnn Thompson, Terry Tuthill, and Alison Wegener handed out goodie bags to the kids.

It was Mollie Wise’s first Easter Parade in Bellport. She moved to Brookhaven hamlet last year and wore an orange and yellow creation that matched her sweater.

Tonja Witte, 6, wore a darling green fascinator hat with delicately applied eggs and flowers. Not surprisingly, she won first prize in the 6-to-10 age group. Mike McKenna brought his dog Walter, who, uncomplaining, wore a bunny costume.

Thompson, who started the Crazy Easter Hat Parade, said the day worked out great. “People were smiling and happy, and we were involved with making sure all the kids got something,” she said.  “And bless the people who brought their dogs—they were adorable. Many people thanked us for doing it for the kids.”

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