Amherst Sunday stroll has turned into a walk on the whimsical side

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  • Larry and Ann Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912, embark on a Sunday walk through their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ann and Larry Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912, stop to chat on one of their Sunday walks "to bring good cheer" to their Echo Hill neighborhood. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ann and Larry Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912, stop to have their photograph taken on a Sunday walk through their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. From left are neighbors Linda Terry, Marilyn and Jeff Blaustein and Sofia Osborne, 12, with her three-year-old pug, Gracie. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ann Steinhauser included not only feathers, but a bird sitting on a nest of eggs, on her hat as she dressed in Edwardian period costume for a Sunday walk through her Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Larry and Ann Steinhauser of Amherst visit with neighbor Mary Sorcinelli, left, as they begin a Sunday walk through their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ann and Larry Steinhauser, dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912, walk up Aubinwood Road in their Echo Hill neighborhood in Amherst. As seen above, Steinhauser included not only feathers, but a bird sitting on a nest of eggs on her hat. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Heather Sheldon and her daughter Anna, 7, of Amherst enjoy catching a glimpse of neighbors Ann and Larry Steinhauser on one of their costumed Sunday walksd. Sheldon was on a video call with her sister at the time and said she was glad to spread the good cheer to Philadelphia. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Larry and Ann Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume, stop at the home of Gino and Mary Sorcinelli before embarking on one of their Sunday walks through their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ann and Larry Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912, stop to chat on one of their Sunday walks "to bring good cheer" to their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • For the last eight Sundays, actors Larry and Ann Steinhauser have dressed up in different costumes to spread "good cheer" around their Amherst neighborhood and plan to continue the tradition through June. Last week they dressed in Edwardian period costume as if to attend the Royal Ascot of 1912. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Larry and Ann Steinhauser of Amherst, dressed in Edwardian period costume, stop to chat with Kristina Filep, right, and her daughter, Elizabeth Marlin, 6, on a Sunday walk through their Echo Hill neighborhood. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Larry and Ann Steinhauser, foreground, came upon neighbors Shelley and Arthur Green dressed in sheep heads, waiting for them during one of their Sunday walks through their Echo Hill neighborhood on May 31, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2020 12:22:44 PM

On one afternoon they may be seen in Victorian-era clothing, another in the wigs and robes of judges. Or what they wear could be even more whimsical, like donning, almost from head to toe, oversized fish heads once used in a school play.

Whatever they put on, Ann and Larry Steinhauser have attracted attention in the Echo Hill neighborhood along  their 1.3-mile walking route, mostly on Bridle Path, Aubinwood Road and Alpine Drive, on Sunday afternoons.

“People are thanking us for doing it,” Steinhauser said of what she calls the Echo Hill Costumed Sunday Stroll. “It’s brought them cheer in what’s felt like a cheerless time.”

The dress-up began on Easter Sunday, when she would normally have three grandchildren over for an Easter egg hunt. With that canceled as social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic became a necessity, and feeling sad about the lack of normalcy, Steinhauser said she was inspired by a similar project being done in Buckinghamshire, England

With a basement filled with all styles of costumes, ranging from medieval to early Celtic — many that she has made or worn for shows by Valley Light Opera, Silverthorne Theater Company, Amherst Leisure Services Community Theater and schools where she has taught —  Steinhauser said the strolls were an opportunity to showcase them.

The first weekend she picked out a pink Edwardian costume she had worn in a performance of “Music Man” and gave her husband a tuxedo and tails. They then ventured out and didn’t announce what they were doing in advance to anybody.

“We saw people we know and didn’t know,” she said, adding that some may have given them a sideways glance.

Because it was a simple walk, she decided another time out the following Sunday wouldn’t hurt.

“The next Sunday came around and I said to Larry, ‘Let’s do it again,’” Steinhauser said.

And it’s continued since, in a different way each weekend, and with more word of mouth bringing people out into their yards or onto their front steps to catch a glimpse of what the couple are wearing and chat with them, if so inclined.

“The day we went as pirates I was ‘arring’ my way through the neighborhood,” Steinhauser said.

On Mother’s Day, the couple was joined by their daughter, Brooke, a program director at the Emily Dickinson Museum, with each wearing wigs that were once used in the Mike Nichols-directed HBO miniseries “Angels in America.”

“We went as crazy-looking judges,” Steinhauser said.

How long it takes to make the walk depends on how many people are interested in talking or photographing them , and the footwear they put on, though typically it lasts at least 90 minutes.

Suzanne Daly said she appreciates that the stroll feels local and is a way to do something that doesn’t depend on a smartphone or computer.

“It’s been so much fun. I think everybody needs something right now not mediated by a screen,” Daly said.

Jeff Blaustein said he and wife, Marilyn, came out to see the most recent walk. “We saw them once by chance, and didn’t want to miss this one,” Blaustein said.

“What’s been kind of sweet is I have met people I didn’t know and have become Facebook friends,” Steinhauser said.

She is planning for at least four more weeks, which would mean winding down as summer begins.

“It’s been a joy to do it,” Steinhauser said. “It’s been something for me to look forward to.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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