Tufts of hot pink feathers float gently through the air as a woman proudly shows off her twirl-worthy green tutu. Behind her, a man with a multi-colored unicorn hat adjusts the purple feather boa around his neck.
A boy blocks his face from the sun with his mom’s hands, while a group of nearby children inspect their candy-filled Easter eggs.
An attendee in a tie-dyed veil meets her friends, who are sitting on a black-and-white spiderweb-patterned blanket. Upon closer inspection, the veil reads, “Don’t ever let your fear decide your fate!”
An older gentleman in a red baseball cap laughs to himself as he watches the crowd’s contentment and joy.
A congregation of locals and tourists, young and old, painted Mission Dolores Park in shades of rainbow and pastel colors on Easter Sunday for the 40th anniversary of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of queer and trans drag nuns dedicated to community service and human rights.
“We’re celebrating 40 years of history,” says Sister Ray Dee O’Active. “For some of us, this is the first time we’ve ever seen so many sisters in one place, and I think it’s the best kind of family reunion.”
It’s time for the Easter bonnet contest.
“This is where it’s up to you. This is where it gets real serious,” says Sister Roma. “We need you [the audience] to please cheer for your absolute favorite.”
A father lifts his daughter on his shoulders for a better view of the stage. “Don’t you want to see who wins?” he says. She crinkles her nose as the faint smell of marijuana wafts through the air.
The two finalists, Henny Penny and the Fabergé Egg of the Inquisition, compete for the love and applause of the crowd.
“Wow, it was really close… not!” says Sister Dana.
By a landslide of audience cheers and applause, the 2019 Easter Bonnet contest winner is, much to Sister Roma’s bewilderment: the Fabergé Egg.
As live music plays, attendees — with their neon outfits, iridescent faces and wildly creative Easter headwear — return to the lawn to sit in circles on blankets and chairs scattered across the grass.
In their appropriately-themed button-up shirts and hats, Todd Smith, David Powell and Gary Brownen gather amongst themselves to revel in the festivities and share deviled eggs.
“We’re here for Hunky Jesus,” says Smith, causing the three friends to laugh.
Back on stage, the hopeful Hunky Jesus contestants convened for the last competition of the day. The finalists included Historically Accurate Jesus and Forrest Gump Jesus, the latter earning the highly sought-after title.
“Life is a box of chocolates,” says the announcer. “You’ve got it, Forrest Gump!” The audience rejoices, as the two finalists hug it out on stage.
As the Easter in the Park celebration came to a close, the Trash Can Marching Band exuberantly parades through the audience — enveloped by lime greens, muted lavenders, and cotton candy pinks.
“What we’re doing is expiating stigmatic guilt and promulgating universal joy, which is flowery words for teaching everybody and reminding them that they were born perfect,” says Sister Lida Christ of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. “And anything else they learned along the way that makes them less than or marginalized, that doesn’t count and it’s not important.”