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Haunted House creators reinvent an Easter carnival

Lower East Side Easter is not a holiday typically associated with burlesque shows, dunk tanks and live DJs, but that's exactly what visitors to Full Bunny Contact can expect. Developed by the creators of the annual Nightmare Haunted House, Full Bunny Contact is a four-day Easter extravaganza fashioned as a warped version of a traditional spring festival

"Easter is a lot of things," said co-director John Harlacher. "It started as a fertility festival and a celebration of spring. We can have fun outside, we can play again, and we wanted to capture that sort of spirit."

Held from April 17 through April 20 at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center on the Lower East Side, the festival offers twists on traditional carnival games: instead of milk bottle toss, guests can knock over stacks of bunnies with jelly beans, compete against a giant chicken in a game of tic-tac-toe, or even challenge the divine in Dunk the Savior, a dunk tank where an accurately-thrown pitch drops Jesus into a pool of water.

The marquee event and namesake of the festival is Full Bunny Contact, a one-minute egg hunt inside a steel cage, in which participants collect giant eggs filled with prizes (like a free slice of pizza from a nearby vendor), while three opponents dressed as Easter bunnies play defense. Contrary to the name of the event, the bunnies can't grab or tackle contestants-their tactics are more akin to basketball moves than rugby scrums-but the bunnies can obstruct a contestant's path and swat the eggs away.

"We're taking the basic idea of competition and we put it in a way that's unusual," Harlacher said. "That makes it more fun and engaging, and it takes you back to this sense of childlike wonder, because it's not something you've seen before."

The festival does offer a few more traditional and low-key activities, including an egg-decorating contest, though most events events lean toward the unexpected. Kids can participate in a temper tantrum contest, in order to be crowned 'New York City's Biggest Brat' and win upwards of 30 pounds of Easter candy, and a more adult crowd can stick around for a nighttime bunny burlesque contest, with performers dressed as rabbits. The event also includes, quite literally, a moveable feast, with food from Dean Street, Palenque and Sunday Gravy food trucks.

The festival, Harlacher said, is geared toward adults and "adventurous kids."

"If your child would enjoy going to a Knicks game or Six Flags, they would enjoy this," Harlacher said.

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