NEW YORK — The bonnets appeared on Fifth Avenue for the annual Easter Parade — outlandish 21st century headpieces that were hardly bonnets, featuring everything from bunnies and butterflies to grassy, egg-dotted lawns and even a tall ship on the high seas.
And the parade is hardly a parade. Instead, while Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrated Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the avenue was milling with people in homemade costumes that get zanier each year.
The crowd included Christians, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists and others, including hundreds of tourists.
"It's all about versatility," said Mary Anna Smith, a New York custom milliner whose business card reads "The Tipsy Topper."
The 2015 Easter Parade bore little resemblance to the first one that started in the 1880s as a display of the finery prosperous New Yorkers wore to Fifth Avenue churches. In recent decades, the street gathering has morphed into a costume circus.
Smith wore a "hat" she fashioned from an elaborate kite and some fluffy white stuff into a bright blue sailing ship floating on sea foam.
"It's about sailing to new heights," said Smith.
She also created headpieces for two friends, one a massive butterfly and the other a tropical umbrella dripping with felt balls and anchored to a bird's nest, then to human hair.
Steps from the parade, the trio was tending to last-minute touches, adding bobby pins to make sure the contraptions didn't topple.
"It's Easter and I didn't want to be too garish," said Smith's friend, Kristen Lee Sergeant, a Manhattan jazz singer in a simple green dress. "But then again, I do have a huge butterfly on my head!"
For their first Easter Parade, the Maxwell family wore costumes themed on the 1984 American sci-fi comedy film "Ghostbusters," which has nothing to do with the Easter theme of Jesus' resurrection.
"We put all these parts together off of eBay and different other sites," said Ronald Maxwell, a Manhattan computer consultant who strapped a huge, menacing looking "proton pack" to his back, with pink and white bunny ears on his head.
Wife Hilary Maxwell, a dog walker, wore a Ghostbusters-style dress she bought from an online uniform supplier. And their 12-year-old son, William Maxwell, donned a full-body, greenish pantsuit that totally concealed his head.
Carmen, a 4-pound Chihuahua, was not happy with her getup.
"She didn't love this one because it's kind of heavy, and she won't walk in it. But if I carry her, she's fine," said owner Melissa Mejias.
Mejias used a Simplicity pattern — yes, they have a dog line — to sew Carmen's coat from her old shirt, adorning it with a flowery headband plus a necklace meant for tweens.
Mejias wore her mother-in-law's old, dark red velvet Easter hat.
"I'm carrying on that tradition," said Mejias.