By Walter Nicholls Posted April 13, 2009, 5:15 PM EDT
WASHINGTON More than 30,000 people from 45 states and the District of Columbia were expected to attend today's Easter Egg Roll, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the White House south lawn. The children's event, a tradition since 1887, was hosted this year by First Lady Michelle Obama and was under the direction of White House social secretary Desiree Rodgers. This year's theme was “Let’s go play,” which in a press release the administration said “encourages America’s youth to lead healthy and active lives.” The First Family's schedule calls for a 10 a.m. arrival at the the festivities.
Today's event was believed to be the largest Egg Roll ever, with as many as 10,000 additional guests, and the White House distributed tickets online for the first time. Families from across the country attended the event, which in past years has been dominated by D.C.-area families.The White House gave 4,000 tickets to Washington-area public school students and 2,500 to military families. The day is comprised of five shifts of 6,000 people, with each group entering the grounds for a two-hour visit, egg roll, and ongoing entertainment schedule that included music industry acts, noted chefs, and a yoga demonstration.
On the south lawn, the White House events staff placed tall cut-outs of tulips around the central fountain, and for the 10th year, event contractor Hargrove provided extensive signage and props. A stage was set up for entertainers Fergie, Ziggy Marley, Jessica Jarrell, SteveSongs, and Imagination Movers, who were set to perform throughout the day. In keeping with the healthy theme, chef Art Smith of Art and Soul, Jose Andres of Jaleo and Zaytinya, and Bravo TV Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn of Good Stuff Eatery conducted cooking demonstrations on a second stage, dubbed the Kid’s Kitchen. In another first, many of the day's activities were broadcast live on the White House Web site, which can be viewed here.
Every child in attendance received the 2009 souvenir wooden Easter egg, which the White House says is “the greenest egg in history.” (More than 13,000 hard-cooked and dyed eggs are also on hand.) The wood came from an environmentally and socially sustainably managed forest, the packaging is recyclable, and the ink used for the Barack and Michelle Obama's signatures is vegetable-based.
An entertainer, dressed in a rabbit costume, was the guest of honor.