ATLANTIC CITY — Mercedes Cottman stepped on stage wearing a 1-foot tall hat covered in bunnies, chicks and pastel pinks and purples.

It swayed as the 6-year-old walked onto a stage at the end of the famous Steel Pier.

She had just won “Best Bonnet” in the pier’s Easter fashion show, an annual event steeped in Atlantic City tradition. It’s the 15th year the pier owners, the Catanoso family, have hosted the event, which this year drew about 100 parents and kids donning their finest attire.

For many, it wasn’t their first time entering the competition.

Mercedes is a three-time champion. Her mother, Jamie Hewitt, of Pleasantville, spent three weeks visiting craft stores and putting together her daughter’s bonnet with a glue gun.

This year, Hewitt got creative, using an upside-down lampshade as the base. The top of the bonnet featured a miniature garden surrounded by white picket fencing, and a glittery blue ribbon secured the hat in place.

“I’m a bonnet maker now,” Hewitt joked. “I’m a professional.”

The best dressed contest is one remnant of Atlantic City’s former Easter Parade, a Boardwalk tradition that started in 1876 during a preview of the Philadelphia Centennial Expo and continued through the next century. Families dressed in their Sunday church clothes each Easter for a social promenade down the Boardwalk.

Atlantic City no longer sponsors an Easter parade, but events are still hosted by different groups each year, the Steel Pier’s fashion show being a standout.

Miss New Jersey 2018 Jaime Gialloreto judged the competition, which included categories for four age groups. Cash prizes and giant chocolate bunnies were handed out to the winners.

Scarlett Brown, 14, of Smithville, won “Best Dressed” in the teenage group.

Her mother, who recalls Atlantic City’s Easter parades from the past, helped Brown with her costume — a sleek, pastel pink dress and straw hat lined with feathers.

Brown’s favorite part: “Seeing all the smiling faces.”

Contact: 609-272-7258 azoppo@pressofac.com Twitter @AvalonZoppo

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