When their house went up in flames in the spring of 1994, Jenny Fealkovich and her daughters weren't at home. All they saw were the ashes--and the replay on the evening news. There, on display for the viewing audience, were shots of the survivors, scattered across the front lawn, grinning from ear to ear. Holding fast, purple-knuckled, to their plastic carrots. Fifteen inflatable Easter bunnies. Dressed in hats and coats.
"It was really embarrassing," recalls Fealkovich, who rebuilt after the fire and still lives at 1180 Sprague Road in Parma. "I had just been joking around with my neighbors the day before and putting clothes on [the rabbits]."
Tragedy struck again a few years later, when somebody stole all the green bunnies--just the green ones--from her yard. That was hard, she says. "The green ones are the hardest to find." But Fealkovich, like the fluorescent rabbits (last count: 95) and 1,000 plastic eggs that spring up on her lawn every Easter season, will survive. And she learned a valuable lesson: Don't put clothes on your inflatable Easter bunnies. Nature gave them a coat of cheap drugstore plastic. Let it be.
Christmas is a special holiday, for sure, but in Cleveland, Easter has a chutzpah all its own. Less garish, more goyish. In Parma, plastic eggs clinging to bare tree branches are the first sign of spring (a takeoff on an old German custom, says Janice Ziegler of the Western Reserve Historical Society). Blow-up bunnies, rare in other regions of the country, have been sighted as far west as North Eaton Township in Lorain County.
Fealkovich uses a bicycle-tire pump to keep up the air pressure in her rabbits. June Desmond of 3420 Grantwood Drive in Parma, however, has had the best luck with an air compressor--"the kind you hook up to the cigarette lighter in your car."
Desmond says the bunnies cheer her up, but that they're also a little depressing. Even constant patching with nail polish and tire repair kits can't keep them from looking bedraggled after a while. Still, they stand alongside their brethren, bobbing in the wind. "I've noticed how the weather affects them," Desmond says, pointing her toe at a wilting duck in a polka-dotted disco hat. "I didn't know if this one here would survive this year."
There'll be no eggs in the trees, but the spirit of Cleveland's suburban Easter traditions will be honored when the Abate Motorcycle Club hosts a free Easter Egg Hunt at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Carlton Harley-Davidson, 11771 SR 44, Twinsburg. Trolleyville U.S.A., 7100 Columbia Road in Olmsted Township, has Easter egg hunts on Saturday, at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 440-235-4725 to register.