Thousands of children, most decked out in their Sunday best, raced across the South Lawn of the White House on Monday in the annual Easter Egg Roll.
Swinging large wooden spoons, scores of kids pushed and prodded brightly colored eggs across the White House lawn.
No eggs were broken, but a few hearts were; the races often ended in tears of frustration.
“I like trying to win everything,” said 4-year-old Charlie Tuesca from Kensington, Md.
Leila Voxakis, 2, who couldn’t make it to the finish line despite the urging of a volunteer, ended up picking up her egg and waddling to the line.
“Everything has been wonderful. This is our first egg roll,” said Leila’s mother, Rana Voxakis, 36, of Virginia. “I’m glad that my little girls could experience it.”
The egg roll, now in its 136th year, featured such celebrities as Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, actor Jim Carrey, singer Ariana Grande, 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.
There also were live performances from pop stars and the Marine Corps Band.
Cam Anthony, the 12-year-old singer who has become a hit on YouTube, started the festivities with a soaring rendition of the national anthem from the Truman Balcony of the White House.
President Obama stepped onto the balcony to welcome the crowd of more than 30,000 people and introduce first lady Michelle Obama.
“Happy Easter! This is the biggest event we have at the White House all year long,” the president told the crowd. He hailed his wife as “the person who makes this all possible.”
The Obamas’ daughters, Sasha and Malia, were not in attendance because they were in school, the first lady’s press secretary, Joanna Rosholm, said.
The theme of this year’s egg roll was “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” part of the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative to encourage fitness and healthful eating among children.
With the egg roll, “we get to celebrate something near and dear to my heart — it’s making sure kids are healthy and active,” Michelle Obama lady said.
Attendees flocked between sports courts, cooking stations, storybook readings and craft areas. They could also take pictures with vegetable mascots, the Easter bunny, Spider-Man and the Minions from the animated movie “Despicable Me.”
The Obamas made their rounds to each of the stations after the introduction. At the story station, the president read “Where the Wild Things Are,” which he says was one of his favorite books as a child. He reads it every year at the Easter Egg Roll.
After the story station, the president went to the basketball and tennis courts, where he played a couple of games and posed for photos with children.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama visited the cooking station and the story station.
According to the White House Historical Association, the egg roll at the president’s residence started in 1878. Previously, an egg roll had been held on the Capitol grounds, but Congress passed a bill forbidding children from playing there because of damage to the lawn. So President Rutherford B. Hayes invited children to roll their eggs on the South Lawn.
“I grew up here and always saw kids doing [the egg roll] on TV,” Alexandria resident Amy Holmes, 44, said Monday. “It’s exciting to finally come and . . . see it through my kids’ eyes.”