An Online Frenzy for White House's Easter Egg Roll Tickets

A man dressed as a Secret Service agent with bunny ears mingles with the crowd during last year's Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn.
A man dressed as a Secret Service agent with bunny ears mingles with the crowd during last year's Easter Egg Roll on the White House South Lawn. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
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By Timothy Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 27, 2009

Maybe we should go back to standing in line.

The White House's Internet distribution of tickets to this year's Easter Egg Roll appears to have begun with a splat.

Yesterday's release of tickets online in batches produced what some would-be roll-goers described as large gaps in availability, and frustration and confusion.

In recent years, most people wanting to get the free tickets for the hallowed Washington rite of spring would have to stand in line, often for hours, at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion, at 15th and E streets, the Saturday before the roll. Tickets were distributed first-come, first-served. Before that, huge lines would form Easter Sunday and into the next morning as people waited for tickets on the day of the event.

The switch to online distribution was envisioned as a way to ease the process and make tickets to the April 13 event on the White House's South Lawn available to a broader cross section of people across the nation. By 6 p.m. yesterday, tickets had been snatched up by people in 41 states, a spokeswoman said. By 7:45, the Web site said all tickets were gone.

Complaints began surfacing early yesterday, shortly after the tickets became available.

Several people said that they were unable to log on to the White House ticket site or that when they logged on, tickets weren't available. Some resorted to Craigslist to find tickets, for as much as $50 apiece. A spokeswoman for the White House said it was working with Internet sites to prevent ticket sales. She said the staggered distribution was done to give more families the chance to get tickets without having to be available at a specific time.

Tracy Rotton of Aspen Hill said she started trying to reserve tickets for her two children at 8 a.m. At 2:15 p.m., she announced via Twitter that she had gotten her tickets.

"I was a bit dubious when I first heard about the White House's plans for offering the Easter Egg Roll tickets online," Rotton said in an e-mail to The Washington Post yesterday. "And for much of the morning . . . I was being proved right."

Kristin Vergis of Garden City, N.Y., said she was up until midnight to see whether the ticket site was active. She went to the site again at 6 a.m. and tried to reserve tickets throughout the day, to no avail. "At one point, I got through the verification process and then was timed out," she said in an e-mail to The Post. "I wish the ticket process had been left the way it was."

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