Bring on the bunnies
by Corbin Crable
Easter Sunday is coming up quickly, on Sunday, April 9, and if you live in Kansas City or are at least from here, that can mean only one thing – a trip to the Country Club Plaza to see the Easter bunnies!
The Plaza – the city’s historic outdoor shopping district adorned with ornate fountains and Spanish-style architecture — draws revelers each year around mid-March through mid-April, not only for a high-end shopping and dining experience but also because you can find life-sized Easter bunnies decked out in their pastel-colored Sunday best (except for 2015, in advance of the Kansas City Royals’ opening day, when the characters wore the team’s signature blue baseball jerseys).
In addition to being a local Easter tradition, the nine bunnies (four males and five females) also are the city’s unofficial harbingers of the spring season. When the bunnies come out, you know it’s finally time to shed your winter coat and bask in warmth and sunshine.
According to The Northeast News, the bunnies originally were installed at J.C. Nichols’ Crestwood Shops in 1922; nine years later, in 1931, they found their new permanent home on the Plaza’s sidewalks. The article states that each statue weighs 200 pounds and is made of Plaster-of-Paris.
Did you know that each rabbit has his or her own name, too? Lee, Nickolas, Brian, and Peter (of course) for the boys; Bess, Ellyn, Sue, Kate and Amy for the girls.
Originally, there were five males – the fifth, named Joe, was stolen 30 years ago and never been replaced, according to The Northeast News. You can find each boy rabbit’s name on the collar of the dress jacket he wears; names for each girl, meanwhile, appears on the side of the basket they carry in their arms.
Peter Rabbit at the Plaza
Patti Klinge’s grandchildren with Peter Rabbit at the Plaza.
Each year since about 1970
“Each year since about 1970, the bunnies have been joined by a menagerie named the Wonderland Animals that includes a turtle, pelican, elephant, kangaroo, and lion that may be more appealing than the giant bunnies to young Plaza visitors,” The News’ April 13, 2022, article states. “Prior to 2001, when the glowing red light bulb bunny eyes were removed, many children were spooked by their appearance, referring to them as ‘demon rabbits.’ White or albino rabbits actually do have red eyes, but the change has been a positive move. To ensure the bunnies will last for generations to come, they were given a fiberglass coating in 1971.”
It’s a safe bet that if you live around here, you’ve taken your children or grandchildren to the Plaza so they could see or even climb on the bunnies. My family would hop in the car and drive down to the Plaza every Easter to snap photos of the bunnies – well, after we’d pick up some chocolate at the Russell Stover Chocolates store, in front of which one of the bunnies stood proudly, if memory serves me correctly.
If you haven’t done so, I’d encourage you to create a magical Easter memory and make an annual pilgrimage to the Plaza bunnies a tradition for yourself and your loved ones. For more information, visit www.countryclubplaza.com.