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NY's Easter parade tradition both elegant and zany

Associated Press Modified: April 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm •  Published: April 24, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Bonnets both elegant and zany took center stage at this year's Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue — along with spirited talk about Christ's resurrection and gay marriage.

It was "a real New York spectacle," said John Leone, a Long Island electrician who came Sunday with his native Ecuadorean wife and two young daughters — and their over-the-top hats.

Victoria Leone, 7, and her 8-year-old sister, Valentina, wore huge white domes, fashioned from pastel Froot Loops and marshmallow Peeps attached to white plaster that had been shaped around a balloon.

The family joined thousands of people from around the world who had gathered for the midtown Manhattan celebration.

Some showed off their Easter finery; others wore costumes that might have appeared in a circus sideshow.

Sitting atop Mike Revenaugh's thrift-shop straw hat was a miniature Ferris wheel filled with Lego figures, on a lawn of fake grass graced by plastic eggs.

In his multicolored striped jacket, the 28-year-old graduate student had no plans to attend a religious service. "It's a little difficult, with this equipment," he said.

Starting Sunday morning, the parade stretched a dozen city blocks up and down Fifth from St. Patrick's Cathedral, the seat of New York's Roman Catholic Archdiocese. The church was packed for a late morning Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Many of the faithful wore beautiful traditional bonnets.

But the joyous revelry was mixed with some dissent — and sorrow.

Gay activists stood in front of the cathedral protesting ecclesiastical opposition to same-sex marriage, while honoring those who had lost their lives because of prejudice.

Among the victims was 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in September. Prosecutors say he committed suicide after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was captured on a webcam allegedly by a roommate who tried to broadcast it online.

"We're here to memorialize our dead, and to pay tribute to Clementi and other hate crime victims," said Scott Wooledge, 44, a member of the activist group Queer Rising who hoisted a banner depicting a raised fist.

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