Wyatt Walsh looked high and low for a stuffed bunny during the Langley Bunny Daze Rabbit Hunt on Saturday, but there were none to be found.
Walsh’s two companions, Wyatt’s older brother Beckett and their friend Matiyah Frasca, found two of the stuffed animals at South Whidbey Commons and were eager to help Wyatt, 6, find one of his own. They were among 300 people vying for 150 bunnies scattered throughout downtown in the second annual event put on by the Langley Main Street Association.
The Walsh brothers and Frasca scanned the streets of Langley, the nooks and crannies of Seawall Park and the alleyways between First and Second Street, but no stuffed bunnies were in sight. When they returned to South Whidbey Commons, Wyatt spotted a large white bunny sitting on a chair. But it belonged to another 6-year-old, Bjorn Beckstrom, who had found it across the street near The Braeburn.
In an unexpected act of kindness, however, Bjorn gave his bunny to Walsh.
“I didn’t want him to be sad,” Beckstrom said.
Beckstrom’s mother Erica was proud of her son for the kind gesture. Erica Beckstrom and her husband Andy of Seattle were invited to the event by her parents, who live on Whidbey Island. She had no idea prior to the weekend about Langley’s relationship with rabbits, which once overpopulated the town and gained national attention, but was pleasantly surprised by the event’s appeal.
“It was really cute,” Erica Beckstrom said.
Lorinda Kay, program manager for the Langley Main Street Association, said organizers were surprised by the large attendance on Saturday, which was triple the amount that participated in 2016 and included far more children.
“The kids really seemed to enjoy themselves,” Kay said.
The stuffed bunnies with tags that read “Bunny Relocation, Please Take Me Home” were placed by organizers two hours prior to the event in the doorways of almost every shop on First Street, around Frick Lane, the ticket counter at Clyde Theater and several other locations.
The plan hit a snag at around 9 a.m. though, when early arriving children snatched them up. By the time the official hunt began, there were fewer bunnies to go around. While many children strolled triumphantly through the streets with stuffed prizes in hand, others weren’t as fortunate. Kay said there will be more bunnies to find at next year’s hunt.
“I think next year we’ll organize it a little differently,” Kay said. “We don’t want any kids going home empty-handed. The other side of that is that it is sort of a game and they’re there to hunt for the bunnies.”
Kay said that while not every kid came away with a stuffed bunny, most if not all received chocolate Easter eggs and other assorted candies from bunny helper Hailey Robinson and other organizers.
“We made sure they came away with something,” Kay said.
It was the second year participating for the Walsh brothers and Frasca. The Walshes’ grandmother, Mary Walsh of Clinton, said it’s a fitting event for Langley.
“It’s a great, great day for the parents and the visitors,” Walsh said. “I think it really shows great community spirit that they have these well-loved bunnies all around. It’s a really great idea.”
“There were a lot more people this year, so I think the word is spreading,” she added.
Prior to the event at Boy and Dog Park, Mayor Tim Callison proclaimed April 15 as “Bunny Daze.” In his proclamation, Callison said that citizens of Langley have continued to coexist with the bunnies in harmony and that they contribute to the “beauty, interest and whimsy of the Village by the Sea.” The bunnies will also be treated as “honorary citizens” in recognition of their contribution to the community.