by Carly Marsh
Calling all Easter egg hunt enthusiasts, Timothy Haskell and John Harlacher, of “Nightmare” haunted houses opened a new spring carnival on the Lower East Side over the holiday weekend. The main event isn’t as creepy as the Halloween productions the pair is known for putting on, but it promises to pack more of a punch.
Those looking for a new way to celebrate Easter can stop into the carnival at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center at 107 Suffolk Street until Sunday. Entry is $10 at the door and advanced VIP tickets can be purchased online. In addition to games, prizes, and candy treats, a variety of food vendors will be at the event, as well as a bar. Two Boots Pizza has even created a pie for the event, topped with rabbit sausage.
The event is put on by Psycho Clown, Harlacher and Haskell’s production company, and employes tens of actors, directors, stage technicians, and musicians.
“We put a lot of our own money into this,” Harlacher said. “We’re working class people, we make this stuff, people like it and they come,” he said. “We’re not millionaires off it.”
The main attraction, Full Bunny Contact, is unlike any other Easter egg hunt. Contestants have 60 seconds to scoop up as many pastel colored, prize filled, plastic Easter eggs as they can into their baskets. The catch: Easter bunnies are playing defense. Three over-sized Easter bunnies dressed in gym shorts and t-shirts chase and cross check contestants, swat their baskets, and block eggs from their reach.
“You have to be an athlete in a weird way, because every 60 seconds you’re running and chasing people,” said bunny Walter Simons, 35.
The idea, Full Bunny Contact, came from the way you experience Easter when you are a child,” said Harlacher. “You could go outside. You could make up your own weird games with your friends.”
For the less adventurous contestants, the carnival features a wide variety of adult and teenage-friendly fun. There’s the “Chicken Scratch” game, tic-tac-toe played against a spring chick, Chelsea Burris. She normally works as a musical theater actress, but this weekend Burris is a self-proclaimed “tic-tac-toe kung fu master” in a chicken suit.
Other events include “Shoot the Peep,” where contestants can shoot paintballs at another feather-covered actor, and “Dunk the Savior,” where an actor portraying Jesus sits at a dunk tank—if contestants knock him down and he walks on water, they win a prize. At one carnival booth, a psychotic bunny will tell fortunes, and at another, visitors can reach down a wooden rabbit’s keister for treats.
Visitors looking to truly revisit Easter through the eyes of a child may be delighted to take home a photo souvenir after sitting on the “creepy” Easter Bunny’s lap.
“On the internet you see all those photos of kids terrified of Easter bunnies,” Harlacher said. “There’s something creepy about a giant rabbit and we want to exploit that.”