Liz Simmons and the Bunny Board organize an Easter parade every year in their neighborhood. (Photography by Andrew Williams.)

Easter Sunday, for many, is a day of family gatherings, egg hunts, reflection and renewal. But for some East Dallas neighbors, it’s a Newellian Day.

Participants in the Very Fifteenth Ever Newellian Easter Parade will march down Newell Avenue in Hollywood Heights between Lindsley and Santa Fe at 3 p.m. April 12. Bonus: The grand marshal is Emmy-winning actor and soap opera star Vincent Irizarry, the handsome Dr. Armstrong on “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Although it’s definitely family friendly, it’s not exactly your mama’s parade, which is not surprising, given the mastermind. She’s the one and only Liz Simmons, owner of the brighter-than-Vegas yard displays at her home on Newell at Christmas and Halloween.     

She says the parade took shape one evening years ago when she was enjoying adult libations and a game of Dog-Opoly with her friends “Twig” and Kimberly on the front porch. She mentioned that she’d always wanted to plan an Easter parade. Neighbors immediately hopped on the idea and formed the Newellian Bunny Board, a group of volunteers which has produced the parade every year since.

Newellian Bunny Board member Lesley “Pookie” Lingnell has been involved in every parade since it began. During the first year, she pulled her baby boy in a decorated wagon. Since then, she’s ridden in a horse-drawn carriage, pulled Santa’s sleigh and donned a mosquito costume. Her greatest honor? Riding on the potty float, which Liz builds every year.

Every year is different. However, Station 19 firefighters always lead off the parade, and Dallas police officers monitor traffic at Lindsley and Newell. Simmons reiterates one important rule: There are no rules. 

“Anything goes,” she says. “Freedom to be creative and express yourself is important.”

Lingnell suggests building a float or riding your tricked-out bike, pogo stick, scooter, big wheel, roller skates or skateboard. She adds, “Strap those cute babies in the Radio Flyer or push ‘em in the stroller — bunny ears are encouraged.”

Animals are welcome too. “We love to showcase pets, such as snakes, three-legged dogs, pot-bellied pigs and pet rats,” Lingnell says.

If you’re picturing sweet bunny costumes and lovely bonnets, you’re partially right. Along with such cuteness, you’re just as likely to see big, creepy bunnies chomping cigars and The Bonnet Brigade, adults wearing elaborately adorned chapeaux.

Themed floats have ranged from pillaging vikings, flying saucers and Telletubbies to hillbilly bands on vintage firetrucks. Golf carts have been transformed into giant pigs and ducks. Also, 24-foot chocolate bunnies and Peeps make appearances.

Expect Elvis to walk down Newell and wave to the crowd, along with his buddy Santa, apparently needing a break from the North Pole. There’s also the gorilla group, possibly wearing hot pink bikinis and dancing to disco music. Or will they wear pink tutus?

Bunnies abound, handing out candy and rubber snakes to kids and Jello shots to adults. They crack cascarones on the heads of unsuspecting spectators and generally get into mischief.

The neighbors along the street love it. Taren Mandeville and her family look forward to it every year. The last couple of years, Mandeville’s 6-year-old daughter, Kellyn, has rolled down Newell in her grandpa’s gold 1968 Camaro and his mint green ’65 Chevy truck. 

Joe Kacynski is another neighbor who’s a fan and frequent participant. His float themes have included “There’s no place like home” from the “Wizard of Oz” and “Beach Blanket Bingo.” This year’s float will have a soap theme in a nod to the soap opera star grand marshal. 

“It’s top secret,” he says. “Let’s just say rubber duckies will be involved.”

Neighbor and friend to the Bunny Board, Belynda Ortiz, gets credit for securing the famous grand marshal. She became acquainted with Irizarry at a fan convention, stayed in touch and convinced him to be in the parade. He joins the ranks of former grand marshals Kinky Friedman — a singer, songwriter and author — and Mike Castellucci, a local journalist.    

“The parade is an exuberant, sensational coming together of the neighborhood,” Mandeville says. “The Bunny Board is a special group of people that manages to put on a fun event for everyone. Every year, I’m amazed at the talent and effort put into it, and every year my husband and I say, ‘We are so lucky to live in this neighborhood.’”

For more information, contact Vincent Irizarry will not be grand marshal. 

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