Saturday morning just after 11 a.m., Tillsonburg’s Easter Bunny – Rosemary Dean – along with Mike Dean and their daughter Melissa Hunt, arrived at the Barclay home in Tillsonburg.
Stepping away from the front steps after ringing the doorbell, they were greeted by a very excited young girl, Briar Barclay, and her mother Sarah.
Briar seemed happy to receive a small candy gift.
“That’s for staying safe,” said the Easter Bunny.
“Wow,” Briar smiled.
“That’s so awesome,” said Sarah. “Ask the Easter Bunny if she’s having a nice day…”
“We are,” said Rosemary, wearing an Easter Bunny costume that has traditionally been worn at the Kinsmen Easter Egg Hunt in past years and other special events. “We are out doing visits – we just plan to make everybody happy today when everyone’s stuck in our houses.”
“That’s so nice,” said Sarah. “She’s so excited.”
“Happy Easter!” said Briar.
“Are you going to leave the Easter Bunny some carrots later?” Sarah asked. “Remember the big carrots we bought at the grocery store? Yeah? That’s for the Easter Bunny, right?”
“Um, yep,” Briar nodded.
“Thank you… happy Easter,” Briar added, waving goodbye. “Stay safe.”
“Stay safe everybody,” said Rosemary.
The Dean family had started visiting Tillsonburg homes on Good Friday, although Friday morning’s planned departure time was delayed a few hours after a light overnight snowfall. They decided to begin at 1 p.m. after it had warmed up a bit. Requests for visits started flooding in when people saw on social media that the Easter Bunny was in town.
“I think there has been about 30 people this morning,” said Melissa Hunt on Saturday, “and we did about the same yesterday.”
Many of the children received pre-packaged goodies Friday that had been purchased for March 21 vendor show organized by the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair (cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). On Saturday, the Deans were handing out small boxes of candy to the younger children.
“We don’t have that many left today,” said Hunt, noting they had just visited 10 kids on Lisgar Avenue. “So we’re just trying to give them to the little ones.”
“It started… and it just kept going and going and going,” said Mike, who was chauffeur for the day in an Advanced Automotive truck. “Within an hour after we started we were getting messages. We tried to keep up on Facebook when people said ‘Hey, can the Easter Bunny come here?’ We went as far as Straffordville yesterday…”
“We also had people in Woodstock, Delhi, and Ingersoll that have been wondering if the Easter Bunny would travel that far,” said Hunt.
“That’s amazing,” said Sarah.
“It’s just our way to say thank you (for staying safe),” said Rosemary, “and put a smile on the kids’ faces.”
“Some of them are so excited,” said Hunt. “And then you get the ones who are really shy and they are scared.”
“We’re trying to make our rounds,” said Mike. “I think we saw about 30 this morning and we’ve got another bunch to go.”
“I keep getting messages,” Hunt smiled.
“What happens is, one person says, ‘Can you come here?'” said Mike. “And they have their neighbours all come outside, they all want to see the Easter Bunny.”
The Deans and children were careful to maintain safe social distancing space, Rosemary noted.
“It’s a way to say it’s not all doom and gloom out there,” said Mike. “We’re all trying to get through this as best as possible, and some of us enjoy giving cheer,” he said, nodding to Rosemary. “Just out there trying to make everybody smile.”
“It’s so hard to not just hug you right now,” Sarah said to the Easter Bunny. “I want to hug you so bad, but I just can’t.”
“Air hug,” Hunt laughed.
It was 11:30 and the Easter Bunny trio were far from done – still on the list were Kara Lane, several homes on Concession Street, Arbor Lane, Verna Drive, Trottier Drive, Rolph Street, Quarter Town Line, and more.
“That is so amazing,” said Sarah.
“Just trying to make everybody’s day just that little bit brighter,” said Mike. “It’s about community spirit, making everybody smile.”