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On South Street, an annual celebration of Easter finery

A large crowd turns out for the city’s 85th Easter Promenade.

There were Mad Hatter-inspired top hats, handmade green-and-orange porkpies and bunny-bedecked sun caps.

But the best bonnet of all was the one worn by Joules Santos, according to the judges at this year's Easter Promenade on South Street. The 13-year-old Allentown girl wore a straw hat sprouting snapdragons and carnations amid spinning pinwheels, with strings of daisies hanging from its brim.

"You look for originality," said City Councilman Mark Squilla, who donned a pair of yellow rabbit ears to join the panel of judges at Sunday's event in his district. "You look at the smiles on their faces, the excitement."

The Best Easter Bonnet award was given out during the prize ceremony that capped the decidedly secular take on the Christian holiday, a parade said to be in its 85th year.

"It's a chance to dress up," said Henri David, the Philadelphia jeweler and Halloween-ball impresario who has organized and emceed the gathering since around the time it moved from the Rittenhouse Square area in the early 1980s. "It's the idea of wearing your finery, wearing your fun."

This year's Easter Promenade - perhaps due to the day's warm, sunny weather - drew especially large numbers, with organizers running out of bunny ears after giving away 1,100 pairs, said Kory Aversa, a spokesman for the South Street Headhouse District, the event's sponsor. Last year, about 400 pairs were given out.

Sunday's event began with a short parade along South Street, with David, Squilla, and Mayor Kenney leading the way. Parade music was supplied by the Philadelphia Freedom Band, which bills itself as the city's only LGBT marching band.

A small herd of performers in rabbit costumes - one on stilts - joined the procession, which ended at a stage on Second Street where Squilla and his fellow judges handed down their verdicts.

Prizes - baskets with candy and gift certificates for area businesses - went to the best-dressed participants from different age groups, as well as the best-bonneted. (Not all contestants were two-legged: A standard poodle wrapped in bands of flowers was named the best-dressed dog.)

David kept the event moving along, wearing a colorful outfit of rabbit-print pants, a bright paisley jacket with tails, and a purple sateen waistcoat. Rabbit dolls were lashed to his soaring candy-colored top hat, from which protruded sticks dangling translucent multicolored eggs.

"It's a great event," said Marlo Dilks, 34, who has been attending the Easter Promenade since an aunt brought her as a 2-year-old. "We love to get dressed up, we're Catholic, it's Easter."

Among the 20 family members with Dilks this year was her daughter Capri, whose pink faux-fur jacket over a pink gown earned her the prize for Best Dressed Little Girl.

Heather Connor said she strolled up to the event from Queen Village with her family, including her son Ronan, who had won the prize for Best Dressed Little Boy in 2003 when he was 2.

"It's a nice, fun family event," she said.