By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - After more than 50 years, loyal fans have one last chance to visit the Easter bunny and other Easter-themed mosaics made of thousands of brightly colored eggs on a lawn in an eastern suburb of Cleveland.
The displays have drawn thousands of visitors each year to the sprawling lawn of Betty and Ron Manolio in Lyndhurst, Ohio, but the 55th annual event this year will be the last.
Eggshelland was created by Ron Manolio, 80, who died in August. This final display is dominated by a 16-foot by 15-foot portrait of the man who each year spent months hollowing out and hand-painting anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 eggs. A message below the picture reads "thank you all, and goodbye."
This year, Manolio's children and grandchildren set up the 21,630 eggs in 24 colors in a display entitled "A Labor of Love" in tribute to their grandfather. The egg mosaics depict a 45-foot cross, an Easter bunny and an EGGSHELLAND sign propped up in front of the couple's house.
"Our children did this their entire lives. They thought everyone does this," Betty Manolio told Reuters. But the months it takes to design and two to three weekends for installation are too much for the family to keep up.
Egg mosaics in past years have depicted characters from Sesame Street, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Harry Potter and spring scenes.
Manolio said that because her husband was the creative force behind project, it would be too difficult to continue Eggshelland without him.
"Actually, I was amazed we were doing it for 55 years," she said. "If he (Ron) was still around I think we would do it until we both died. I'm going to miss it next year."
Others will miss Eggshelland too. On a typical day, cars line up on their street and around the corner to catch a glimpse the display that began with a mere 750 eggs saved over the course of a year in 1957. At Eggshelland's peak in the 1970s local police were called to direct traffic.
Local and national media have described Eggshelland as a childhood fantasy land but in truth the phenomena has quite an adult following including a website dedicated to its 55-year history and its creators (http://eggshellandeaster.tripod.com), and a 2004 award-winning documentary on their efforts.
Eggshelland will be up until April 5th. After that, Manolio hasn't yet decided what will happen to the eggs. Previously, they stored the eggs for the year and replaced those that had broken.
"We haven't decided what to do with them. We've gotten some calls," Manolio said. "My grandchildren, of course, told me to put them on eBay."
(Editing by Jackie Frank)