There was lots of laughter, and some cheering, too. And that was before the Easter Bunny even showed up. Thousands of children who won lottery tickets to the annual Easter Egg Roll streamed onto the South Lawn on Monday, ready for fun.
The 137th White House Egg Roll kicked off with live music coming from the “Rock n’ Egg Roll” stage, as families gathered to celebrate one of Washington’s more colorful events.
By the time the first dozen or so children in their Easter best lined up, wooden spoons in hand and eggs on the ground, the crowd had been whipped into a frenzy.
“Let’s make the first lady hear you! Rollers, are you ready?” a volunteer yelled to the children, who all cheered back. But it may have been a little too much excitement for one girl. She started to roll her egg and sent it airborne.
About 35,000 children, their parents, musical performers and celebrity guests were invited to the all-day event hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas, joined by the Easter Bunny, gave their opening remarks from the Truman Balcony.
“We are so blessed to have this beautiful day, and to have so many friends in our back yard,” the president said, waving to the families gathered below.
This year’s event theme was “#GimmeFive,” challenging Americans to make five healthy lifestyle changes. It was part of the fifth anniversary celebration for the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign.
“We’re celebrating by taking over the Easter Egg Roll with #GimmeFive,” the first lady said. Girl group Fifth Harmony sang “Happy Birthday” to mark the anniversary and presented Michelle Obama with balloons and a birthday cake.
The festivities began with the Egg Roll. The president blew the starting whistle and the eggs were off, tumbling down the lawn. Like every competition, there was a winner — and some losers. Toward the end of the race, a young boy got flustered and Obama gave him a few tips on proper technique.
Health-themed stations were set up throughout the day, featuring hands-on training with professional athletes and healthy cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs, such as Bobby Flay and Gail Simmons.
The Obamas visited families and volunteers alike. The first lady started her day by helping the ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ All-Stars teach the crowd some dance moves.
“I’m just trying not to breathe hard,” she joked after dancing to “Uptown Funk.”
TV hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan of “Live! with Kelly and Michael” broadcast their show from the White House and quickly got in on the action. Ripa kicked off her high heels to race barefoot down the course against her son, Joaquin, along with Strahan and his twin daughters. The kids managed to beat the parents.
With so many activities to choose from, it was hard to name a favorite.
“I liked the story,” said Makayla Henneman, 7, referring to Michelle Obama’s reading of “Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good For You,” a Dr. Seuss book.
It was written specifically for the Let’s Move! initiative, the first lady told the crowd, and was all about different ways to stay healthy. She read to the gathered children while Disney Channel’s Genevieve Goings turned pages on a larger version.
“We’re having a great time,” said Makayla’s mother, Jennifer. “It’s just been a blast.” The Hennemans traveled from North Carolina to join the fun.
The Egg Roll dates to the 1800s, when local children would roll eggs down the Capitol Hill grounds the Monday after Easter. Annoyed by the growing crowds, Congress passed an act banning the event.
In 1878, children asked President Rutherford B. Hayes to host the Egg Roll in his back yard. Since then, it has become the largest annual event held at the White House.
This is the seventh year the public has been able to enter into a lottery to win a ticket to the festivities.