President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the annual White House Easter Egg Roll this morning, welcoming 30,000 of visitors, children and families, into the grounds of their home.
First off, the Obamas took to the South Lawn to help young competitors in the traditional egg-rolling race and later took a well-earned break reading aloud snippets from their favorite books.
The theme of this year’s event was Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You! – fitting with Michelle Obama’s campaign to lower childhood obesity rates by encouraging physical activity.
“We are so excited. The Easter Egg Roll is the biggest event that we have here on the South Lawn of the White House each year.
“Today we’re going have more than 30,000 people pass through this yard in celebration of nutrition, and health, and activity,” Michelle Obama announced from the balcony of the White House as the sun made a welcome appearance.
First daughters Malia and Sasha Obama also played a role in today’s event.
After President Barack Obama recited passages from his favorite book Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom, they read aloud the popular children’s picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?.
Like their parents, Malia and Sasha Obama opted for casual wear, and looked comfortable dressed in jeans and sneakers.
Michelle Obama joined her daughter in the reading corner, narrating passages from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
“Thanks for coming, have fun,” the first lady said after her story-time session, which was also attended by the family pet, Bo the dog. She instructed him to keep his paws off her white pants.
The president’s basketball and tennis courts were open for play, along with an obstacle course and yoga garden.
A dance party was set up at the Hop To It Stage, and professional athletes and coaches were helping teach their sports in the Eggtivity Zone.
Among the stars scheduled to attend were Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, gymnast John Orozco and Washington Wizards point guard John Wall.
Two of the younger celebrities in Monday’s lineup are Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhane Wallis, star of Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Robbie Novak, who plays Kid President in a series of popular YouTube videos.
A track suit-clad Elmo and other Sesame Street Muppets performed and encouraged exercise.
The White House had warned more than 35,000 expected attendees that the 135-year tradition could have been cancelled because of budget battles with Congress this year.
White House tours have been called off because of government-wide spending cuts, but the egg roll was not.
The National Park Service, which organizes the event, says it’s largely funded by sales of commemorative wooden eggs, plus some private donations.
The park service would not say how much the event costs.
The White House said 14,500 eggs were dyed for the egg roll and hunt, with another 4,500 hard-boiled eggs available for children to decorate.
There are also special eggs that make a sound like a chirping bird so visually impaired children can participate in the hunt.
Yesterday the First Family attended an Easter service at St. John’s Church.