• Mary Evans Seeley

The White House Easter Egg Roll (Part II)

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Have you ever had the opportunity to attend the Annual White House Easter Egg Roll? It is one of the most fun and exciting events in which Presidents, First Ladies, their children and grandchildren, have customarily attended and participated in for America's children. Only on rare occasions, the annual Easter Egg Roll has been canceled - 17 times since 1878 due to war, bad weather, White House renovations and health issues. In 1918, President Wilson canceled the egg rolling tradition because federal health officials, led by Herbert Hoover, were combating food shortages during WW 1. The Spanish Flu affected many people as well.

One hundred years later, the142nd White House Easter Egg Roll scheduled for April 13, 2020 was canceled for similar reasons due to the invisible enemy, COVID-19 and concerns about large gatherings. The health and safety of all Americans had to be the first priority. Mrs.Trump said, "I deeply regret this cancellation, but we need to make difficult decisions in the short-term to ensure a healthy country for the long-term."

With the annual Egg Roll canceled, Mrs. Trump gave 25,000 souvenir wooden eggs to the Children's National Hospital, and workers on the front lines of the pandemic. The pastel eggs that were scheduled to be given out on Easter Monday were delivered to federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Red Cross and local grocery store chains as a "small token of appreciation" for those serving the public, according to the First Lady's Office.

Over the years, other First Ladies have left their unique mark on the White House Easter Egg Roll in different ways. Although Patricia Nixon remained with her family on Easter Monday, her influence at the Egg Roll substantially changed the experience. For the first time in the White House Easter Egg Roll, she had an Easter Bunny appear as the star of the event, a member of the presidential staff dressed in a white bunny costume, posing with the children for photographs. In 1971, the First Lady had a massive wood stand in the shape of a colorful painted egg constructed and placed at the center of the lawn with the words “Welcome to the White House” painted above it- a perfect place for a pictures. She had a live white bunny brought to the lawn for the children to feed. For the first time, there were clowns in attendance who helped organize the informal egg rolling. In 1973, for the first time, organized entertainment was added. Circus performers performed tricks, added comedy and acts for the guests. Finally, for the first time, the White House kitchen provided the Easter eggs for the children to push along with spoons also on loan from the kitchen.

In 1976, Gerald and Betty Ford became the first presidential couple to attend since 1960. Mrs. Ford introduced Ukranian egg-decorating demonstrations and gave out plastic eggs with a welcome note as a souvenir. The Carters also gave out plastic eggs and brought in a petting zoo including lots of bunnies and a1200-pound steer.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan brought in entertainers dressed as superheros and cartoon characters. Mrs. Reagan, who had attended the White House Egg Roll as a child, introduced a hunt for wooden eggs that had been signed by famous people. Wooden eggs soon became the official White House Easter Egg Roll keepsakes. Since then, the wooden eggs were designed with a theme of the event each year.

George and Barbara Bush hosted the Egg Roll with several of their grandchildren and their dog, “Millie”. 23000 wooden eggs were used for egg hunts; 5000 boiled and colored eggs were used in the egg races. In 1991, Mrs. Bush provided heartfelt Easter cards to be mailed to troops in the Persian Gulf. That year all of the wooden eggs were painted yellow to honor the soldiers serving in Operation Desert Storm.

The Clinton's scaled back the fanfare and expanded the Egg Roll to spill over to the Ellipse, beyond the South Lawn, focusing on egg rolling games. In 1998, the Egg Roll was streamed live over the internet, allowing even more people across the nation to share in the festivities.

George and Laura Bush hosted the first White House Egg Roll of the 21st Century in 2001. Two years later they restricted the event to include 12000 active duty and reserve military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Egg Roll was reopened in 2004.

Barack and Michelle Obama used the Egg Roll to focus on a healthy, active lifestyle as part of her “Let’s Move” program. Chefs demonstrated how to make nutritious treats from fruits and vegetable grown in the White House garden. Daily exercise was promoted as the President shot baskets with the children. Since 2009, tickets to the White House Egg Rolls have been distributed through a national online lottery.

Donald and Melania Trump hosted their third annual White House Easter Egg Roll on April 22, 2019. The event was held from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm. The Trump's children and grandchildren participated in this historic event. The First Lady, as well as members of the Trump’s cabinet and consultants, read books to the children from a special made reading nook. The American Egg Board donated 74,000 eggs to this event,, which is called “the hottest ticket in town.”

The Monday Easter Egg Roll, which originally began at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, on Capitol grounds, was moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in 1878. It is one of the oldest and most unique traditions in presidential history. According to Stewart McLaurin, President of the White House Historical Association, the 2020 Official White House Easter Eggs "are particularly unique." He predicted that the 2020 White House eggs will be "collector's items. They're for an event that will never take place."

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