Fam­i­lies at­tend Na­tional Zoo’s egg hunt

Event has been held for over 100 years

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JU­LIA BROUIL­LETTE

The Easter Bunny was long gone Mon­day, when scav­enger hunts and egg rolls were held at the Na­tional Zoo as part of a cen­tury-old spring­time tra­di­tion.

Since 1891, African-Amer­i­can fam­i­lies on Easter Mon­day have flocked to the zoo, where the day is cel­e­brated with kid-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties such as: an Easter egg hunt, egg roll and an­i­mal shows di­rected by zoo em­ploy­ees.

Brit­tney Wil­liams said she has fond mem­o­ries of spend­ing Easter Mon­days at the zoo as a child. Mon­day morn­ing, she strolled down the Olm­sted Walk with her two chil­dren, An­thony and Ava.

“It’s some­thing I want them to know, a mem­ory they can think back on when they get older,” said Ms. Wil­liams, 32. “I don’t know when or how [the tra­di­tion] started, but I want to carry it on.”

Many vis­i­tors could not trace the ori­gins of the tra­di­tion, but one the­ory of­fered by zoo of­fi­cials is that African Amer­i­cans went to the zoo be­cause they were not al­lowed to at­tend the White House Easter Egg Roll, which also takes place on Easter Mon­day.

Another the­ory is that black house­keep­ers used to have to work on Easter Sun­day, so they cel­e­brated on the Mon­day after Easter at the zoo.

Re­gard­less of how the post-hol­i­day rit­ual be­gan, it has be­come a mul­ti­cul­tural event that at­tracts hun­dreds of fam­i­lies in the District ev­ery year.

“The kids love it,” Ms. Wil­liams said as she pushed 3-year-old Ava in a stroller.

The Wil­liams fam­ily came pre­pared for the day’s rain, with pon­chos and an um­brella in tow. An­thony, 7, dodged pud­dles as he ex­cit­edly pointed to­ward his fa­vorite ex­hibit.

“The panda!” he said, run­ning to­ward the en­trance to the Asia Trail, which leads to the zoo’s gi­ant panda ex­hibits.

Pig­gy­back­ing on the pop­u­lar­ity of its three live panda bears, the zoo in 2014 de­buted the “Easter Panda” — a panda dressed as an Easter Bunny with a panda body and head with rab­bit ears.

Along with a visit from the Easter Panda, fam­i­lies en­joyed field games and ed­u­ca­tion booths with staff from the Na­tional Air and Space Mu­seum and the Smith­so­nian Con­ser­va­tion Bi­ol­ogy In­sti­tute’s En­docrine Re­search Lab.

In re­cent years, of­fi­cials have en­hanced se­cu­rity mea­sures at the zoo dur­ing Easter Mon­day.

Safety con­cerns height­ened after two teens were wounded on Con­necti­cut Av­enue when shots were fired near the zoo in 2014.

Guests car­ry­ing bags now pass through a se­cu­rity line be­fore en­ter­ing the zoo, which can de­lay en­try time by up to half an hour.

Nei­ther the se­cu­rity line nor the wet weather ru­ined the day for the Wil­liams fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to Ms. Wil­liams.

“The line wasn’t too bad,” she said. “And the rain’s keep­ing us cool.”


De­spite the weather, thou­sands flocked to the Na­tional Zoo on Mon­day as part of an Easter tra­di­tion.

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