Thousands of kids swarmed the White House Monday for the 136th running of the White House Easter Egg Roll, shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrities from Jim Carrey to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. At stake were precious commemorative eggs bearing the signatures of the president and first lady or paw prints of White House dogs Sunny and Bo.
“This is the biggest event that we have at the White House all year long and it is our most fun event because we have a chance to see families from all across the country coming through here,” said President Barack Obama.
The president joked that he only had two jobs Monday – to officiate the egg roll and to introduce first lady Michelle Obama. Cam Anthony, the 12-year-old YouTube sensation, sang the national anthem.
“We’re just thrilled that this theme is focusing on one issue that is near and dear to my heart, and it’s making sure that our young people are active and healthy,” said Michelle Obama. The theme this year was “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” part of the first lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to teach kids healthy eating and exercise habits.
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Kids and parents took part in storybook readings, obstacle courses, sports demonstrations with professional athletes and, of course, Easter egg rolling. Everyone got a prize, a pastel-colored egg with either the stamped signatures of the Obamas or first dogs Sunny and Bo. The dogs probably got the biggest cheer of the day when they strutted out onto the South Lawn.
Obama followed up the egg roll by reading “Where the Wild Things Are,” the Maurice Sendak classic he said was one of his favorite books when he was young. Obama asked the kids to roar along with him, gnash their teeth and show their claws. He even challenged a few to a staring contest.
The Easter egg roll is the largest public event held at the White House, crowding tens of thousands onto the South Lawn. The event this year drew plenty of celebrities and athletes, including singer Ariana Grande, retired NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, Washington Redskins players and the cast of Sesame Street.
In the late 1800s, the Easter festivities took place at the Capitol. But Congress banned the practice in 1876 to protect the grass. Two years later, President Rutherford B. Hayes opened the White House grounds on Easter Monday.