People traded in their bunny ears for masks this Easter weekend.
Families searched for eggs at the annual Lions Club event at City Park on Saturday in another sign of a continuing return to normalcy.
Easter bunny Gavin Larios skipped around the park and greeted children after a year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“You do it for the kids, you don’t think about yourself,” Larios said after the event. “You’re in a costume, you’re a fictional character at that point. I mean, It’s easy for me to like put myself in other characters, I guess.”
Saturday wasn’t Larios’ first rodeo, or rather, Easter egg hunt; he’s helped with these events for five years. He started helping at his church, First Lutheran.
“I was really into community service,” he said. “Growing up … I didn’t have the best family to come home to, so it was easier to go to church or music to get myself away from home because the problems at home weren’t always the best. It was easier to express myself through these outlets that were given to me by the community. I think it helped me kind of uproot myself out of the place that I came from.”
Larios, a Manhattan resident, grew up in theater. He studied vocal music education at Bethany College before his parents passed away. After that, he moved back home from Lindsborg.
“Stuff got really tough,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I was in the most supportive community I could have been in, so I moved back.”
Larios said he will study at Manhattan Area Technical College this fall.
He said his favorite part about the Easter bunny gig is seeing children conquer their fright about the rabbit.
“You know, it’s skipping around. It’s seeing kids overcome their fear,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Oh gosh!’ And then their parents are like, ‘He’s cool’ … You just see that expression change on their face. There’s no reason to be afraid.”
Lions Club president Dave Schafer said Saturday’s egg hunt at the park went well.
His favorite part is seeing families get outside and enjoy the egg hunt.
“It’s also a reason for our club members to get together and do something,” he said. “Several that haven’t been coming to our meetings because of concerns about their health and all that are out helping this morning.”
Manhattan resident Rina Lafave and her son, Lucas Lafave, 2, participated in the egg hunt at City Park. Lucas picked up about 10 eggs.
“Two-year-olds get distracted pretty easily. He found a golf ball,” Rina said. “He had a good time. Nice weather, he loves being outside.”
The area had other in-person Easter events during the weekend, including a special edition of the Downtown Farmers Market.
Renea and Luis Martinez along with their two-year-old son, Luciano, shopped for fresh meat and plants Saturday at the market in the parking lot near Dillard’s. Luciano picked up Easter eggs in the midst of his parents shopping.
“He’s having fun,” his mom said.