Doing the Easter Sunday hop to South Street

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The Easter Promenade remains a long-standing holiday tradition for local family

By Bill Gelman

South Philly Review

“What are we doing for Easter?”

When the holiday arrives on Sunday, April 1, you will not hear any member of the Dilks family ask the question. There is no reason to since everyone knows about the standing tradition in place — one that dates back to the time when Marlo Dilks was 3 or 4 years old. The Easter Promenade on South Street — Philadelphia’s largest Easter celebration that is now in its 87th year, is where they’ll be along with hundreds of other people of all ages. There will be an Easter Bunny sighting, too.

RoseRita DePiano, her aunt, started taking Dilks some 30-plus years ago when the event was held on Rittenhouse Square.

“It’s a nice thing to do after church. We’ve been doing it forever,” DePiano said. “It continued from there and never stopped.”

Whether it has taken place on Rittenhouse Square, at The Gallery in Center City or on South Street, the family — now some 20 members strong — is keeping the Easter Sunday routine going. They’ve even showed up on days when those April showers tried to put a damper on things. Some years it included checking out the petting zoo at The Shambles. Malro and Jason Dilks and their six daughters are looking forward to once again meeting up with the family.

“We love it. It has extended to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and they live in New Jersey,” Dilks said. “The kids love it. They love it even more if they win.”

She is referring to the fashion part of the day in which individuals, families and even pets are crowned Best Dressed, Best South Street Razzle Dazzle and Best Easter Bonnet. In previous years, Fergie, the family dog, earned doggie bragging rights after sporting his Easter Sunday tutu. Nadia, 17, their oldest daughter, has walked away with several Best Dressed awards over the years. Capri, 7, Avana, 6, Chiara, 5, and twins Luciana and Giorgia, 19 months, have joined the tradition along with extended family members. DePiano’s daughter, Chirose DePiano-Maryk, 22, is making the trip down from Penn State University. Marlo’s mother, Mary Fioravanti, lends a helping hand with the clothing as a result of being the owners of a Star is Born, 1821 E. Passyunk Ave., with DePiano.

“She either brings us dresses or we go to her store,” Dilks, who resides in Queen Village, said.

Sometimes the decision involves whether to wear a bow, hat or bonnet.

Come Sunday morning, the family, dressed up in their Easter Sunday best, will walk to East Passyunk Avenue and Christian Street to meet up with the rest of the family on the way to services at St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church, 712 Montrose St. Then, it’s off to South Street where all the fun begins.

Spending Easter Sunday as a family is so important to Marlo and Jason Dilks, the owners of SliCE, 1180 S. 10th St., and P’unk Burger, 1823 E. Passyunk Ave., that they shut down the restaurants for the holiday.

“It’s Easter Sunday, so it’s just important in general,” Marlo Dilks said. “It’s a fun day.”

After taking in all of the festivities, the family will likely grab a table at one of the South Street restaurants for an Easter Sunday brunch. Then it’s back to the house to continue the all-day eating. Easter Sunday is one of the rare days in which pizza and burgers are not on the menu.

Looking back, DePiano said she never knew, more than three decades ago, she would still be going to the Easter Promenade with the much larger family.

“It’s unbelievable that we are still going every year,” she said. “Every time we think about doing something else we end up coming here.”