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Churches, Colors and Eggs Mark Easter Celebration

April 20, 1987

Undated (AP) _ With colorful hats and bunny ears, solemn protests and joyous hymns, Americans on Easter Sunday celebrated Christianity’s holiest day.

People in newly bought finery packed into churches to give thanks for Christ’s return from the dead. Others, harking back to pagan symbols of springtime and rebirth, hunted for decorated eggs and nibbled on chocolate rabbits.

New Yorkers by the hundreds promenaded down Fifth Avenue in an annual display of tropical hues and pastels. In Los Angeles, thousands gathered in early morning darkness for celebrity scripture readings at the 67th Easter sunrise service at the Hollywood Bowl.

While a human-sized Easter Bunny handed out bonnets of carrots and alfalfa sprouts to the two elephants at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, four people were arrested at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota for trespassing.

About 60 people had gathered for sunrise Easter services and to place lilies at the front gate of the base. The four arrested had crossed a white line at the entrance, said 1st Lt. Marta Lipson, a base spokeswoman.

″(The Easter service) is a time for a mutual gathering of people across the state who are concerned about issues, including war in Central America, the farm crisis and the nuclear arms race,″ Diane Kobernusz, the protest organizer, had said last week.

In Kennebunkport, Maine, 200 people organized by Veterans for Peace gathered on the steps of a church for a prayer, then marched to Vice President George Bush’s summer home two miles away.

″Many veterans are not willing to allow our policies in Central America to continue if they can stop it,″ said organizer Jerry Genesio of Portland, Maine.

Things were a bit more laid back in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where denizens of the shallows met in the 23rd Easter Surfing Festival. The festivities included a bikini contest and stunts involving dynamite blasts.

At the Lincoln Park Zoo, a year-old orangutan named Batu, aided by zookeeper Pat Sass, hid jelly beans and about six dozen hard-boiled eggs for residents of the chimpanzee habitat. Batu helped dye the eggs last week.

Soloists, choirs and a symphony performed sacred music in the Hollywood Bowl as dawn lighted the sky over the Hollywood Hills. Actress Shirley Jones sang, while Robert Stack and Rhonda Fleming gave readings.

Services and holiday meals for the homeless were offered at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and 500 poor children hunted for Easter eggs at a nearby park.

″These people can’t afford Easter clothes and bonnets to go to church,″ said Willie Jordan, wife of mission founder Fred Jordan, while praising the efforts of some of the indigents who cleaned up as best they could for the holiday. ″This is their Easter on the street.″

The Easter Mass at San Felipe de Neri Church in Albuquerque, N.M., was broadcast live on CBS-TV, while the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Ukranian Catholics at Philadelphia’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral was broadcast to parts of the Soviet bloc via Voice of America.

″It was a very joyful and emotional service since this was the only live contact about 90 percent of the congregation would have with their loved ones behind the Iron Curtain,″ said Monsignor Michael Fedorowich, one of the celebrants.

President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, celebrated Easter at a church near their California ranch.

Back in Washington, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews donated more than 1,500 boxes of Passover matzo, originally intended for Jews in the Soviet Union, to the homeless, said the group’s spokesman, John Rosenberg.

The boxes of matzo, the unleavened bread eaten to mark the ancient Jews’ desert sojourn after the flight from Egypt, had been addressed to promient refuseniks: Jews who have been denied permission to emigrate. The matzo will be distributed by Rev. John Steinbruck of Luther Place Lutheran Church.

Part of New York’s Fifth Avenue closed to traffic and became a sea of white gloves, frilly dresses, sailor suits and hats, from plastic flower-festooned bicycle helmets to several-pound egg and bunny creations.

Bertha Sheppard, 64, of Elizabeth, N.J., sported a bonnet of glittering eggs nesting among a field of stuffed miniature bunnies.

″It took a month to complete. I’ve made one every Easter for the past seven years,″ she said, happily posing for photographs with complete strangers. ″Next year, the theme is going to be ‘outer space.’ That’s a hint.″

One man wearing a Richard Nixon mask went past on roller skates. Six people in bunny ears poked their heads out of a giant top hat, while Mayor Edward Koch strolled in the sunshine shaking hands.

Dorothy Graham-Vannais, age 10 1/2 months, perched in a baby seat on her mother’s back, silk flowers sewed onto her bonnet, watching it all go by.

″She’s at eye level so she can check out the competition,″ said her mother, Jeannine Vannais, 34, who came to New York from Philadelphia just for the Easter parade.

″I’ve been singing songs about this event since I was 9 years old,″ she said. ″It’s a ritual that I want her to be part of.″

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