Perched on a clearing high above the Newport Beach Civic Center reside a collection of white magician’s rabbits. Carved from stone and arranged in a circle, locals have taken to calling the attraction Bunnyhenge. While a rabbit hardly seems to be the kind of creature capable of striking fear in a person’s heart, these bunnies have a history of striking discord among those to have had the courage to visit them. How could carvings of one the most benign creatures on the planet be so divisive? While not one to succumb to superstition, it would appear that there is some powerful magic occurring on the lawn above Newport’s city hall.
Prior to visiting, I was under the impression that Bunnyhenge was an art installation. However, after conducting some preliminary research, I was not able to determine a specific purpose for their existence. According to some reports reviewed, it appears that the good people of Newport Beach opted to have the rabbits installed in the clearing as opposed to purchasing off-the-shelf tot lot. This would seem to suggest that Bunnyhenge is actually a one-of-a-kind playground.
Yet, even that description does not entirely encapsulate the purpose that they serve. One consistent thread that is echoed throughout the reports by publications both big and small is that they came with a staggering price tag. Apparently, it costs a pretty penny to have fourteen vigilant rabbits standing guard over Newport Beach’s seat of power. Knowing the cost actually drove one local politician to his breaking point. In a disturbing video, former city councilman Scott Peotter went as far as to promise his constituents that he would blow them up if elected. Thankfully, Bunnyhenge has been able to outlast the misguided Mr. Peotter’s career in politics. While the majority of those who have vocalized their displeasure in the cost of the project do not arrive at the extreme end of the spectrum where he resides, it would indicate to some, that Bunnyhenge is nothing more than a government boondoggle.
The fact that the rabbits defy description begs the question, what is Bunnyhenge? Is it art? Is it a playground? Is it nothing more than an overpriced city project? After seeing it first hand, I can say tell you it’s all of those things. And, at the same time, it’s none of those things. I return from Newport Beach to inform my dear readers that it is so much more. Quite remarkably, Bunnyhenge is a Rorschach test. Anyone daring enough to look into the circle of white rabbits will have his own biases echoed back at him.
When I went and took a look at Bunnyhenge, I saw a saga of local politics played out on the lawn. I saw a city council courageous enough to install some white rabbits in an affluent and conservative neighborhood. The rabbits served no greater purpose than to bring joy to children. Unlike Disneyland, were are no parking fees or admission fees to come see them. As a result, the rabbits did nothing to broaden the tax base. Any unwashed plebs mobile enough to get to the civic center would be able to see them. As a result, the citizenry of Newport Beach labeled a blight. To counteract the magnetic draw of Bunnyhenge, the new city council opted to install a real piece of art, one that anybody could understand, not just these New York City types do. The result? A life sized bronze statue of business-friendly, Republican hero, president Ronald Reagan who now stands in triumphant opposition just a stone’s throw away from Bunnyhenge.
However, for those of you bold enough to make the trek, I can tell you that after realizing the magic of Bunnyhenge, the spell dissipates and they can be seen for what they truly are; fourteen sweet white rabbits, arranged in a circle, perched in a park on a lawn, high above the Newport Civic Center.
This post was based on a visit to Bunnyhenge on May, 29, 2019