Easter in the Park is back, but under different management
After cancelling Easter in the Park last year due to risingii costs associated with permits, police, required trash haulers and more, organizers are bring the Oak Lawn tradition back this year.
Last year, organizers set up a GoFundMe page to raise more than $20,000 to stage the event but did not receive enough contributions. Without a sponsor or major donations, Dave Berryman, executive director of Cedar Springs Merchants Association, announced the event was canceled.
The spring event has a long history of factions in the ever-changing neighborhood being at odds. Before hippies invaded Lee Park or the gay community revitalized Oak Lawn, Dallas Morning News writer Kent Biffle recounted the first Easter in the Park event under the headline, “Open-air ‘Bravo’ Won By Lee Park Concert.”
Those participating sat “spellbound amid the blooming azaleas and Houston-like humidity,” Biffle wrote those many years ago.
Later that night, golf-ball-sized hail and tornadoes ripped through the area, according to another front-page story that day. But the concert was an overwhelming success.
Under the direction of Conductor Donald Jahanos, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performed Rosenkavalier for the first Lee Park concert in a new $10,000 bandshell set up in front of the then-much-smaller Arlington Hall. The park’s landmark structure, built in 1931 as a replica of General Robert E. Lee’s home in Arlington, Va., was renovated to more than double its size in the late 1980s.
In 1967, Biffle covered the second annual Easter concert, too. Orchestra members worried about the threat of rain and the possibility of no one wanting to sit in wet grass, he reported. But more than 5,000 did attend, many wearing Easter bonnets. Oak Lawn Merchants Association (a different entity from today’s Cedar Springs Merchants Association) sponsored the concert, and Dr. Pepper paid the bill.
While the actual Pooch Parade — with costumes and judges awarding prizes — didn’t become a formal part of Oak Lawn’s Easter tradition until the 1980s, dogs had become a fixture of Easter in the Park by 1968.
Later, Dallas Morning News columnist Marilyn Schwartz wrote that “just about everybody and his dog stretched out on the grass” to listen to the DSO concert while a “giggling Guru” walked his Pekingese.
The following year, older attendees complained about Conductor Anshel Brusilow’s choice of music, which included the Beatles’ “My Sweet Lord” and selections from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Whether the same happens this year remains to be seen.
The Turtle Creek Association previously worked with the conservancy, which also runs the park, to stage Easter in Lee Park. But in 2014, TCA withdrew from Easter in the Park about a month before the event to stage an alternative “family-friendly” event they called “Creek Craze,” held a week before.
When charges of homophobia began flying, members of the TCA board said that family meant all families. “Creek Craze” still flopped.
Easter in the Park takes place from 1-4 p.m. at Lee Park on Sunday, March 27.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2016.