The Easter Bunny is moving on.
Patricia Wehr, Rockville Centre's Easter Egg Hunt volunteer who has worn the costume at the annual event for most of the past 35 years, is hopping to warmer meadows in South Carolina.
"I get more out of it than the kids," said Wehr, 52 of Massapequa, out of earshot of children searching for eggs Sunday. "The smiles on the kids' faces -- most of the kids' faces -- they're just so sweet."
About 200 children and parents wearing winter coats gathered at the John A. Anderson Recreation Center Sunday after a cold rain postponed the event Saturday. A Rockville Centre Fire Department truck pulled up with the Easter Bunny -- Wehr -- on top, to cheers from kids and parents.
"It rained and the field got squishy," said Antonio Gabriele, 6, of South Hempstead as he explained the delay.
The Easter Bunny led the line of children and parents to a nearby field where hundreds of eggs had been placed.
"Listen for the whistle and then you're on the attack," announced Anthony Brunetta, Rockville Centre's director of parks and recreation.
When the whistle blew, the kids rushed the grounds while parents snapped photos. It was all over in 2 minutes except for the counting of eggs and a picture with the Easter Bunny.
"We're rich," said Abriella Amato, 4, of Rockville Centre, holding up her basket of eggs.
Children lined up to meet the Easter Bunny with varying expressions of joy or terror. Kids grabbed onto Wehr's fuzzy bunny legs for a hug. When one child cried, Wehr silently offered a pat on the head. She gave another a high-five as an ice breaker. And to a particularly reluctant child, she shook her cotton ball-topped rear.
Her job, she explained later, requires no speaking. "Have you heard a bunny talk?" she asked.
Besides that, being the rabbit doesn't take much, she admitted. "Wiggle your butt a little. Come in on a fire truck, which is neat."
In 1979, Wehr was working at the senior center when someone asked who was going to be the Easter Bunny that year. "I said, 'I'll do it,' " she recalled
She has missed only two years since then, when she was pregnant with her sons, now 12 and 17. She stopped working for the village in 1980, but continued to volunteer at the egg hunt.
It was only last year that her 12-year-old son, Tim Moller, found out it was his mom in the mask. He'd been coming since he was a baby.
"It was like, 'Mom, is that you?' " Moller said.
She said she hopes to fly to Long Island from South Carolina next year to put on the costume again "just to see the kids' smiles, just that they believe in the Easter Bunny."