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Twenty-five years on, the Union Street Easter Parade is going strong

Silvana Messing and family in Easter bonnets created by Dennis Beckman in the 2015 parade.

For a decade, Leslie Drapkin, co-owner of Jest Jewels, was the Union Street Easter Parade correspondent for the Marina Times. After all these years, she still doesn’t bother to conceal her excitement and her pride that the event is “The Biggest Little Parade in San Francisco.” The Spring Celebration will be held on Easter Sunday, March 27, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Easter Bonnet Contest takes place at 11:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; the parade, from 2 to 3 p.m.

“It’s for the kids, and it’s a time to show off what a great neighborhood this is,” Drapkin says. She and her business partner, Eleanor Carpenter, have operated Jest Jewels for 30 years. They are a fixed point on an ever-changing Union Street. And so is the parade. It drew 10,000 people last year. That’s quite a crowd for the short sojourn between Gough and Fillmore Streets.

“My uncle, Dennis Beckman, started the parade,” says Valeria Rossi, who has been coming to the parade since she was a little girl. Like the children, the parade has grown leaps and bounds. “Dennis owned The Enchanted Crystal, which really was a fairyland, a place for make-believe, a place to mesmerize the children in Cow Hollow.” Dennis’s shop closed after he lost the lease. His rent shot up astronomically. “The parade is really an extension of what his store once was,” Rossi adds. At this writing, Beckman was in Louisiana looking after his ailing mom who’s in her 90s. He clearly has high regard for persons of every age.

There are many people involved in this project, including Zephyr Real Estate, Silvana Messing, (who specializes in luxury home sales at Zephyr), and, of course, the Union Street Merchants Association. As for the merchants, opinions about the parade are positive.

‘IT’S FOR THE KIDS’

“It’s a good thing,” says Paul McManus, a mainstay of the area. He pours drinks at the Bus Stop Saloon and misses very little. “It’s for the kids, and how can anyone but be charmed by their enthusiasm?” Brian Reccow is a partner at the restaurant Belga. “For the Union Street Fair back in June, we didn’t know what to expect,” he says. We hired two security officers for the first day, then sent them away the next. There was no trouble.” The Easter parade promises to be even quieter.

“I like when the children rush into the shop,” says Lainie Dills, who works at Lush, the sweet-smelling soap store. “They are so curious, and they always ask questions, like, ‘What’s Karma?'” In this case, it’s a brand of soap.

Penny Fischer, who works with Dills, says, “The kids are really respectful. I think that has much to do with the neighborhood.” Lush, with more than 250 stores worldwide, donates to hundreds of charities. “I’m particularly proud that we give money to help children.”

Drapkin says the celebration will feature many family friendly activities, including face-painting, a petting zoo, pony rides, lots of costumes, and live music. Also something called a Bubble Jump. The meaning was lost on this reporter.

“It’s when the kids tumble in a large, transparent, plastic bubble, and jump and play to their heart’s content,” Leslie explains. Oh, this Bubble Boy gets it now.

The event marks the true arrival of spring, and a time to savor this unique place. It’s the season for renewal.

DON YOUR EASTER BONNET

Of course the Easter Bunny will pay a visit, but the Easter Bunny needs no costume to be recognized. Not so for the rest of us. Everyone is invited to participate in the Easter Bonnet Contest. That’s kids, parents, and all others alike. Oh, you can dress your pets up, too. That’s usually a big hit. Not that the pets like it very much. The judges will look for zaniness, elegance, and outrageousness in its sartorial splendor. The hats tend to be wild enough to rival the ladies at the Kentucky Derby. And who knows? You may find that you’re in the rotogravure. You remember that song, right? Sure, it’s Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade.” They don’t call magazines “rotogravures” anymore — but you could find yourself in the Marina Times. That’s even better.

Categories in the bonnet battle include Best in Show, Best Couple, Best Family, Best Pet, Best Children, Best Merchant, Most Elegant, Largest Hat, Most Comical, and Most Creative. “Best children?” Aren’t they all? Not an enviable assignment to decide the winner. Ah, but it’s all in fun. Sure, explain that to the kids later. Judging takes place at the Information Booth at Buchanan and Union Streets. Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the parade on the main stage, also at Buchanan and Union Streets, at 3:15 p.m. By then, the anticipation will be at fever pitch. But there are lots of places to cool one’s exertions, and slake one’s thirst at Union Street’s many restaurants, which will be serving special Easter menus.

25th Annual Easter Parade & Spring Celebration: Sunday, March 27, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Union Street (Gough to Fillmore Sts.). Free, 800-310-6563, sresproductions.com.

Silvana Messing and family in Easter bonnets created by Dennis Beckman in the 2015 parade.
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