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No trick: 2,000 kids knocking on White House door

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Saturday, October 31, 2009; 4:53 PM

It's the ultimate trick-or-treating treasure, that one house on the block that offers the coolest candy and surprises galore.

This year it's the big gated place on Pennsylvania Avenue, No. 1600. There's no mailbox out front, but every little kid knows who lives there.

Welcome to the White House, boys and girls.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama awaited more than 2,000 children Saturday night from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The kids were to get to do their trick-or-treating on the most famous front porch in America, the North Portico, with the Obamas planning to spend time handing out goodies.

The word is that the president and the first lady didn't plan to dress up in costumes. But don't rule out the chance that some youngsters might dress up as the Obamas.

The early evening extravaganza was to include outdoor entertainment and activities for the children and their families, so all the youngsters won't be lining up at once for candy.

Later, in the East Room, the first couple were to be joined by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at a Halloween reception for military families and for the moms and dads who work at the White House, along with their kids.

It's the first White House Halloween for the Obamas' daughters, 8-year-old Sasha and 11-year-old Malia.

The visiting children were chosen, with help from the Education Department, from schools in the capital and surrounding suburbs.

Over the years, the winter holidays have been the ones to get the full treatment at the White House, with Christmas trees and tinsel all around.

The Obamas are not the first, though, to show Halloween spirit.

President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush hosted 500 children on Halloween in 1989, loading them up with fun loot but also teaching them about the dangers of drugs. The kids came decked out in costumes; some Secret Service agents came dressed as clowns.

In the Clintons' first year in the White House, the Great Pumpkin returned. A huge orange jack-o'-lantern formed around the front entrance to the White House, with the front door to the mansion serving as the middle tooth. The first couple's daughter, Chelsea, was 13 at the time and the house was stuffed with pumpkins.

During the Nixon administration, first daughter Tricia hosted parties for underprivileged children, according to the White House Historical Association. And plenty of other first families got festive for Halloween.

No telling what kind of goblins might pop up this year, although stories of ghosts -- especially Abraham Lincoln's -- are woven into White House history.


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