’Tweens stretched in the “Yoga Garden.” Chef Jacques Pepin whipped up healthy gourmet meals, and TV star Kelly Ripa read books to children. Over at the entertainment pavilion, pop star Willow Smith whipped her hair back and forth.
And, oh yeah, there was an Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Monday, too.
About 30,000 people received tickets to the 133rd edition of the annual event, which at times more resembled a stop on a Miley Cyrus tour than a quaint, old-fashioned scene of kids pushing pastel-colored eggs across the South Lawn. First lady Michelle Obama said it was the largest crowd in recent years, and the event clocked in at an exhausting 12 hours. Perhaps Bryson Earle, 10, a veteran of two egg rolls, summed it up best.
“It’s sort of like Disneyland, but they don’t have rides,” the Columbia, S.C., resident said. “They got the characters, though.”
Take your pick: Disney, Sesame Street and Looney Toons. And stars, too — enough to fill a red carpet. Hollywood heavyweights John Lithgow and Geena Davis, Spike Mendelsohn of “Top Chef” and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi put in appearances. But most of all, there was lots to do: Kids could run obstacle courses, shop at an organic market with their parents, get lessons from a tennis instructor, bust a move at a dance party or simply chill with the Harlem Globetrotters, who circulated around the White House grounds spinning balls on the tips of their fingers.
All the action was probably a good thing, since the Egg Roll itself got mixed reviews. Some kids said they had a blast, but one said it was “kinda hard,” and another pronounced it “annoying.” Eloise Maguire, 8, of Boston came down in the middle.
“It was funnish, boringish,” she said with authority after taking a turn thwacking an egg with a battered wooden spoon about 30 feet across grass still soggy from the previous night’s storms.
The first family kicked off the festivities with an appearance on a south balcony of the White House. Michelle Obama, the official host, said the theme — “Get Up and Go!” — was aimed at promoting good health among the nation’s children, which has been a signature issue of hers.
“I’m a big proponent of getting up and going, making sure we’re moving and eating healthy, and this Easter Egg Roll reflects all of that,” she told the crowd.
President Obama officiated at the Egg Roll on the South Lawn.
“Everybody feels good about their form?” he asked the kids before blowing a whistle to start the race. Obama cheered on the kids and even provided an assist at one point: He helped a particularly young girl in a flower-print dress flick her egg across the finish line.
The first family then read books to children (“Where the Wild Things Are” and “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”) and the president made a stop at the basketball courts. He took a pass, did a behind-the back dribble and sank a layup.
“He’s got some moves!” a boy shouted as he tried to emulate Obama.
The super-size 2011 edition is a far cry from the first Easter Egg Roll in 1878. According to some accounts, President Rutherford B. Hayes invited children to roll eggs at the White House after Congress banned the practice from the Capitol grounds, claiming that crowds had gotten too rowdy there. The Easter Bunny didn’t make an appearance until the 1970s, when President Richard M. Nixon included him in the festivities.
This year’s event required 14,500 hard-boiled eggs and 1,200 volunteers to stage it, according to the White House. More than 200,000 people applied for tickets in an online lottery system, and winners were selected from all 50 states and the District.
“This is really big,” said Joshua Johnson, 10, of Atlanta.