Cincinnati is the birthplace of many unique and wonderful things: goetta, 3-Ways, the first glass-door oven. We also have the distinction of being the city that spawned the White House Easter Bunny. Multiple bunnies, actually.
Since 1981, Camp Washington's Schenz Theatrical Supply has provided the White House with Easter Bunny costumes. And that traditional continued this year, despite the fact that the shop's beloved proprietor and costume mastermind, Jonn Schenz, died in 2020.
In an Instagram post from the New York Times, you can see the plush rabbit Schenz designed and referred to as "Junior Bunny" (there's also a Mama and Papa Bunny) standing on the lawn during the Easter Egg Roll and chatting with U.S. President Joe Biden.
According to the social media caption, this was the first time the Easter Egg Roll had been held on the White House lawn since 2019 and welcomed 30,000 people, including friends, family, celebrities and Biden's 2-year-old grandson, who the president is quoted as saying "was still a little 'startled' at the sight of a giant Easter bunny."
And while some Easter Bunny costumes can be terrifying (think Donnie Darko or 1980s mall rabbit), the current family of White House Easter Bunnies is much more cartoon-cuddly, with big eyes, eyelashes, button noses and cute outfits. This iteration of Mama, Papa and Junior Bunny can be seen in photos with the Clintons, the Obamas, the Trumps and now the Bidens — a long reign for the furry family.
Schenz began supplying the White House with bunny outfits under President Ronald Reagan. Speaking to his craftsmanship, this is only on the second set of Easter Bunny costumes made since then, all of which Schenz lovingly and adeptly hand-built in his Camp Washington shop.
Schenz started making mascot costumes 1975 for schools, businesses and even Hollywood; MGM’s Pink Panther was one of the first creations. Schenz also crafted Tom and Jerry, the Frisch’s Big Boy, Charlie the Tuna, Slush Puppie and a purple dinosaur that predates Barney. Companies from across the country and world hired Schenz to make their mascots — at one point it was the top costume manufacturer in the country — and this reputation led to Schenz creating the Easter bunny costumes for the annual White House Easter celebrations.
Back in the ’80s, if you put a mascot head on before the chemicals in the mold were dry, “you’d be as high as a kite, baby,” Schenz said, laughing. But even with the short deadline, the bunny was completed and on the aforementioned secret service agent by the Easter Egg Roll.
The rest is history.
Now that Schenz has passed, it's unclear who managed his family of rabbits at this year's festivities or who will make the next generation of White House Easter Bunnies. Schenz Theatrical Supply shuttered its doors this year after selling off the company's inventory, closing the chapter on a local — and national — legend. But at least this year, Mama, Papa and Junior lived on, celebrating Easter in the spotlight.
Read former Arts & Culture Editor Jac Kern's CityBeat interview with Jonn Schenz and learn more about his fascinating history — and personality — at citybeat.com.