Obamas Host Easter Egg Roll on White House Lawn

By Petula Dvorak and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 13, 2009; 3:31 PM

President Obama welcomed thousands of families to the White House today for the first Easter egg roll of his administration, an event with a 131-year tradition that this year is aimed at promoting healthy, active lifestyles among the nation's youth.

Obama read a children's book aloud to a few dozen kids, played basketball with others on the White House court and officiated at the featured event of the day, the traditional Easter egg roll in which children use oversized spoons to push decorated eggs in a race across an expanse of White House lawn. The festivities also included musical performances by pop star Fergie, Ziggy Marley and the D.C. Youth Orchestra, among others.

After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by Fergie, Obama this morning officially welcomed the throng to the White House from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. Appearing with him were first lady Michelle Obama; their children, Malia and Sasha; Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson; and someone wearing an Easter bunny costume.

"This is one of the greatest White House traditions because it reminds us that this is the people's house," Obama said. He said he was "not really in charge here today" but that his sole job was to thank Fergie and the Easter bunny and to introduce the first lady. He spoke after a brief glitch with the microphones that was solved when 10-year-old Malia spoke into one of them.

"That's Malia, our technical adviser," Obama said.

"Our goal today is just to have fun," Michelle Obama told the crowd after the president introduced her.

Tickets for the event were issued to 30,000 people from 45 states, many of whom signed up for the free tickets on the White House Web site. It was the first time that tickets for the event were distributed online, a method that replaced having to stand in line -- often for hours -- at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion or at the White House.

For Washington native Monica Carter, it was also the first time she had been to the annual Easter egg roll. She got there thanks to the hard work of her 7-year-old daughter, Ashunti Carter.

"We got the tickets through her school," Monica Carter said. "They gave them to two kids in each class for good grades, hard work."

Ashunti was ecstatic about the experience, which placed her amid the largest crowd ever for the event.

"I got to see Fergie!" Ashunti said. "And the Easter bunny, too." She was carrying her souvenir, a bright blue egg, carved from sustainable wood, which is wood harvested from carefully managed forests or reclaimed from furniture or old buildings.

For the first wave of egg rollers, it was a tough morning.

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