Break Out Yer Bonnets
People are quick to say that Richmond never changes. That we are stuck in the past, or stuck in our ways, or just plain stuck. It’s a bad rap we hang on ourselves -- one which is mostly false.
But there is one thing I am happy to say never changes -- ever -- and you can experience it on Sunday. Easter on Parade, the Monument Avenue festival which puts a neat little spin on traditional parades. There are no floats or marching bands, it’s just us -- 35,000 of us -- who are the parade, strolling back and forth from Allen to Davis in our Easter finery. Or in flip flops and cut-offs. Or in full goth gear. Or in drag. It all works.
There are the vendors of food and merchandise of every sort, a petting zoo, pictures with the Easter Bunny, face painting, giant inflatable slides and $5 lemonades. And Jonathan the Juggler, of course, the second most central figure to my Easters behind Jesus Christ.
And the hats. Oh, the hats. There is a bonnet contest which brings out the dormant insanity of Richmonders. There is even a pet bonnet contest which drives people to all sorts of extremes. A couple of years ago, a friend and I approached a woman and a little dog who had some kind of antlers or antennas on its head, with no visible strap. “How is it on there?” my friend asked. “Oh, I just used a glue gun,” the woman replied.
One change, though, this year is the introduction of a "title" sponsor -- First Market Bank. Does that mean a giant inflatable moon bounce shaped like an ATM? A separate prize in the bonnet contest for the best hat made entirely out of Ukrop’s grocery bags? Free cotton candy with opening of a checking account? I certainly hope not and I suspect that the Ukrops know a good Richmond thing when they see it. I doubt they’ll fuss with it at all.
Easter on Parade is truly when Richmonders come out to see and be seen. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend with a Monument Avenue address (or wealthy enough to have a Monument Avenue address) you can party all day from the front porch and watch the action go by. If you don’t see at least 10 friends and 10 people you’d rather avoid, you probably haven’t lived here very long.
Why am I telling you what you most likely already know? Because for as many people as I see each year at the parade, it astounds me how many Richmonders have never been to Easter on Parade. If you want a true sense of the spirit of this town, you must get to Monument Avenue on Sunday. Happily, some things never change.—Janet Giampietro