Some 21,000 people were invited to attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, one of the year’s largest events held at the mansion and one that attracted additional attention this year after the newest occupants of the most famous house on Pennsylvania Avenue got a slow start planning the party.
But despite concerns, all seemed to go off without a hitch. It was lower key and less flashy than in years past. First lady Melania Trump wanted to focus on the more traditional aspects of the longtime Easter Egg Roll, her spokeswoman said.
Children and families roamed the lawn and stopped at picnic tables to make drawings that would be sent to troops overseas. They tossed beanbags and practiced soccer at makeshift goals set up by D.C. United. And some tried their hand at what has arguably become one of the more challenging jobs in the Trump administration: They stood in for Sean Spicer at a miniature press secretary podium set up on the lawn.
Laura Trevino of Lubbock, Tex., has entered the lottery for tickets for six years — with her daughter Madison — without any luck. She said she cried tears of joy when her husband, Rodrigo, a recruiter for the Air Force, broke the news that they had finally snagged a set for their family.
Monday morning, they were finally there, and she beamed as Madison, 6, and brother Joshua, 5, struck poses at the kid-sized press secretary podium. Madison wore a pink flowered dress and Joshua donned a dapper khaki hat.
“We’ve always wanted to go because we have such pride in our country,” Laura Trevino said.
She was excited, too, to show her husband around the District. A longtime member of the military, he had never been to the nation’s capital.
“We wanted him to see what he was fighting for,” Trevino said, adding that she was particularly excited to see the White House because she views President Trump, whom she voted for, as being supportive of military families.
The president, accompanied by the first lady, son Barron and the Easter Bunny. stepped out on to the Truman Balcony to address the crowd of colorfully dressed families.
“This is the 139th Easter Egg Roll. Think of it. 139. It began a long time ago, 1878,” President Trump said. “And we will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before. We’re right on track. You see what’s happening.”
The president later walked the rope line to greet families. At one point, he signed a “Make America Great” hat, then threw it into the crowd, away from the person who handed it to him.
The affair was smaller than it was under first lady Michelle Obama, whose Easter Egg Rolls drew celebrities, professional athletes and big-name musicians. Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s spokeswoman, said this week that the first lady decided to scale back the event because she worried it had grown too large, creating long lines for some activities.
Instead, this year’s event offered up military bands, the New Jersey-based pop-rock band Bro4, and the Martin Family Circus. There was also a reading nook.
Melania Trump thanked service members – many of them and their children were among attendees – and read “Party Animals,” a children’s book by Kathie Lee Gifford about celebrating differences, to a group of children assembled on the grass outside.
The Easter Egg Roll drew about 35,000 people in 2016, when the Obama White House organized a carnival-like event that highlighted the first lady’s “Let’s Move” health and fitness initiative. That year, singer Idina Menzel, Silento and others performed and the young attendees watched cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and shot hoops and batted tennis balls on courts alongside professional athletes.
So when the White House was slow to make tickets available or to detail its plans this year, some of the event devotees fretted that the first family would do away with the longtime tradition. Wells Wood Turning, the Maine company that has manufactured the commemorative wooden eggs in years past, sent a frantic tweet on Feb. 20 to President Trump and other members of the first family, warning that a manufacturing deadline was looming.
But the White House came through, releasing tickets in mid-March and distributing them via an online lottery and to “schools, children’s’ hospitals and military and law enforcement families,” Spicer said last week. He said 18,000 eggs had been ordered, “which is in line for years past.”