By Lauren N. Shields
The Meridian Times
A crowd of children swarmed the Easter Bunny as the parents tried to organize them for a picture. While some smiled, others cried. With six children ranging from ages one to nine, father Jerry Currin and mother Nyquita Bloomingberg of Lansing said this was their first time bringing their family to visit the Easter Bunny.
“We are trying to put together an album,” said Currin. “I just like coming out here — it’s nice. It’s a nice environment.”
The Easter Bunny visitation and photograph center at the Meridian Mall was set up by Cherry Hill Photo on March 14 and will run until April 4, the day before Easter. It is through Cherry Hill Photo that all bunnies and their helpers are hired. According to Easter Bunny helper and back-up bunny Ashley Barnes of Owosso. The intricate display takes only one day to set up and one day to take down. The difficult part of the job is the costume, requiring the bunny break after two hours of wearing it.
“If we don’t get our break, we get really, really hot and feel like we want to pass out,” said Barnes. “That’s why we have the two fans on so the air is constantly ventilating into the costume, so you’re not drenching in heat.”
Barnes said the struggle of being the helper, the photographer, lies in taking good pictures and pleasing parents.
“Especially when we have a line, we’re technically only supposed to take so many pictures, and you have to try to get the best picture you can and satisfy all of the parents,” said Barnes. “And sometimes you can’t get the greatest picture because the kid doesn’t want to do it.”
There are five bunnies, both male and female, working at the Meridian Mall. With differing heights, there are two costumes that the bunny can wear. According to Easter Bunny Nick Brock of Ovid, he was recruited to work this season by the manager, a long-time friend.
“I was a little iffy about it but I’m good with it now — I love it,” said Brock.
After showing they are customer oriented and good with children, the bunnies must go through a training process where they learn Easter Bunny etiquette.
“You can’t do peace signs, you have to keep your hand on your lap and the other around the child, and pretty much anything that’s not going to be looked upon as inappropriate,” said Brock. “I mean, those people that don’t know you are trusting you with their child.”
According to Brock, he gets at least 25 visits from children per six-hour shift. Parents from many neighboring cities make time for an Easter Bunny visit for their children. Reasons range from not being able to visit the Easter Bunny as children themselves, such as Laurel Carpenter of Charlotte, mother of a 9-month-old daughter, to it being a family tradition. Billie and Ron Navarro of Fowlerville, parents of two high-school children and a third-grader, have made these visits every year since the first child was born.
The families returning from season to season, according to Barnes, is something that she looks forward to and greatly enjoys, along with being able to be around the kids all day long.
“If you’re in this job and you don’t like kids, then you’re in the wrong place,” said Barnes. “My favorite part is getting to see their smiles, watching them laugh and even the ones that cry sometimes. The pictures that we can get from those make some of the craziest and the funniest pictures ever.”
Barnes said, “It can be hard, but there’s nothing that you don’t enjoy. I mean, nobody enjoys getting screamed at, but any customer service job, I don’t care where you are, you are going to have bad days, you are going to have customers who are going to come and yell at you and they’re not going to be happy, but all you can do is the best you can,” said Barnes. “If you can get past all of that, there is never a least-favorite part.”