Experienced Egg Rollers knew what to do at the White House Easter Egg Roll yesterday. They got there early.
More than 31,500 people went through the metal detectors on their way to play on the South Lawn of the White House. With only 2,000 hard-boiled eggs waiting inside to be rolled, they didn't want to spend all morning in line.
* They didn't leave empty-handed.
"I'm picking out souvenirs," said Robby Flink, 8. "Are you from Channel 4? I'm looking for George Michael."
Souvenirs consisted of brightly colored wooden eggs autographed by people like Anna Maria Alberghetti, Oscar de la Renta and Roy Rogers; buttons that said "Easter at the White House"; coloring books; balloons; instant personalized buttons; and an Easter at the White House plastic bag to carry everything home in. A few children kept the hard-boiled eggs used in the egg roll, but by the time they'd been rolled they were pretty much worn out.
* They kept their appointed rounds.
"Come on, Jelly Belly, you've got a schedule to keep," Judi Epstein said, pushing the puffy red figure who looked like a cross between an overgrown protozoan and a cherry jellybean with legs. Jelly was surrounded by kids who wanted either to get his autograph or to poke him, but he was late for his next appearance over by the huge Jack-in-the-Box balloon.
"His name is Michael Epstein," said Judi, still pushing the jellybean. "He's 15. I'm his mom. God bless America! You raise a child right and he can grow up to be a jellybean."
* They got Kool-Aid Man to sign their eggs. If they couldn't get him, they took Spider-Man or Iceman. Rainbow Brite, Shamu the Killer Whale, Soleil Moon Frye, George Bush, the Campbell Kids, Joe Theismann, Cap'n Crunch, Cathy Lee Crosby, Mr. Peanut or Miss America Sharlene Wells was also acceptable.
* They wondered why an artist, invited by the White House to decorate an egg, would send in a creation called "Easter in Hell."
* They perched themselves on their fathers' shoulders and proceeded to look in just the wrong direction while their fathersyelled, "Look, honey, it's the vice president! Look!"
* They investigted.
"Big ears," said a thoughtful 6-year-old Kevin Bailey to a friend as he stroked the appendages flapping from the oversize head of one creature. "Plastic."
* They took the opportunity to express their political beliefs.
"You're looking at our next president, count on it!" Virginia Tredway told Al Wright as Bush put a whistle to his lips to start one more egg roll.
Both Tredway and Wright volunteer at the White House year-round. As Tredway put it, "When we're not boiling eggs" they answer phones and process birthday cards.
Yesterday they served as egg roll officials. The older participants didn't need much assistance in propulsion theory. They stuck their spoons under their eggs, flipped their wrists, and the eggs went flying, usually to the finish line, often into the crowd.
But the little rollers, those barely pasttoddling, had more trouble. While parents yelled encouragement and took pictures, tiny children dressed in pastels stumbled along the grass, attempting to fit the spoons under the eggs while White House officials pointed them in the right direction and reminded them of what they were doing when their attention wandered.
* They wanted to know where the president was.
* They spent a few minutes watching all those men from the Park Service grapple the Jack-in-the-Box balloon to the ground and deflate it.
"We got a high wind warning from the airport for 1 o'clock," said Don Whitely, parade coordinator from Santa Ana, Calif. The Jack-in-the-Box was making its premiere yesterday and will appear back in Santa Ana this December at the Christmas toy parade.
"It's 60 feet high," said Whitely, "and filled with almost 6,000 cubic feet of heli- um, which makes it a great wind sail." So at 12:30, down it went.
* They got lost.
"Megan? Megan? Megan?"
The mothers' voices rose above the band playing the theme from "Dallas."
"Brian? Brian? Brian?"
* Once they were found, they cried.
There were crying children everywhere. They were crying because it was cold. They were crying because it had started to rain. They were crying because they wanted to pet the donkey again or because they didn't. They were crying because the line to reach the egg hunt went on and on and on. They were crying because their older brothers were hitting them. They were crying because the egg they found in the hay-strewn pens was signed by someone they'd never heard of, a congressman or something. They were crying because it seemed like a good idea.
* Then they wanted to go home.
And not a minute too soon, if you asked their parents.