POTSDAM — Believe it or not, St. Lawrence County officials on Saturday received a complaint from a member of the public voicing concerns that the Easter Bunny was going to be breaking the guidelines associated with social distancing.
County Attorney Stephen D. Button told the Times he received the complaint, which was originally fielded by the Empire State Development Corp. under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order, New York on PAUSE.
“I have to admit, all of us were pretty surprised that we would get a complaint about the Easter Bunny,” Mr. Button said. “The good news is the Empire State Development Corp. had, in fact, identified the Easter Bunny as an essential business in New York state.”
He and county Emergency Services Director Matthew R. Denner are part of a team that makes sure people abide by NY on PAUSE.
Before the Saturday complaint came in, Mr. Denner said he received a call at the Emergency Operations Center in Canton on Friday from the Easter Bunny’s spokesman and local events coordinator, Leonard B. Nesbit, owner of Leonard Nesbit Designs, Event Planning and Tuxedo Rentals, who wanted to know the restrictions and, if he could, visit the kids on Easter Sunday.
“So in the beginning, I kind of thought it was a prank, but when I started listening to the guy, you realized it wasn’t a prank and this was a ritual that he does every year,” Mr. Denner said.
He explained the importance of the use of a mask and hand sanitizer and visiting homes at a distance and gave Mr. Nesbit permission to have the Easter Bunny carry on with his plans.
“I’ll tell you, Mr. Nesbit was a perfect gentleman, identified that he was more than familiar with the responsibilities and he would apprise the Easter Bunny of those responsibilities,” Mr. Button said. “He indicated that the Easter Bunny intended to abide by all of the conditions and was familiar with social distancing and had absolutely no intention of engaging in any activity that could possibly continue the spread of COVID-19 in the area.”
Normally, Mr. Nesbit would organize an event at the St. Lawrence Centre mall where kids could meet with the Easter Bunny and have professional photos taken, but all that came to a “screeching halt” with the pandemic, adding to the financial hit his business took, he said.
“At that point I just figured it was a done deal,” Mr. Nesbit said. “So I got depressed because I love what I do, it made it very difficult.”
But it was on Friday, prior to his reaching out to the county, when people called asking if he could plan roadside visits from the Easter Bunny to homes.
“And that was when everything started to take a little bit of a turn,” he said. “I thought, before I make any moves, I better contact the sheriff’s office and make sure this is a possibility and that is what I did.”
He said certain communities asked that he have the Easter Bunny stay away due to social distancing, which he respected, but the influx of those who wanted the Easter Bunny, the OK from county authorities and support from his family, Mr. Nesbit said he and Easter Bunny set a plan in motion.
At the same time that was happening, Mr. Nesbit got word that a local young lady who was sick in New York City for a very long time was being brought home and a parade was being planned.
So I said to the Easter Bunny, ‘You know what? We’re going to go there,’” Mr. Nesbit said. “It was very clear that everyone was to remain in their cars, and it gave me the perfect opportunity for the Easter Bunny to meet a lot of kids at one time and in a safe environment. After the Easter Bunny did that, he knew he was doing the right thing.”
From the Akwesasne Reservation to Russell, the Easter Bunny visited communities and waved to kids from the street. Mr. Nesbit, himself, recognized the importance of the Easter Bunny to his community.
“My excitement was yesterday (Sunday) when people started posting, ‘Oh my gosh, I saw him too,’ and it started all over the county, different pictures popping up,” Mr. Nesbit said. “Where at first I thought it was going to be a business thing, but it became a community thing that got people excited and interacted and brought back Easter for us.”