2009 White House Easter Egg Party – change you can roll

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Barack and Michelle Obama, echoing their campaign theme, brought change to the White House Easter Egg Roll.

The celebratory innovations at an event that dates to 1878 included:

• Distributing tickets online. That made for more inclusive festivities since families around the country could land tickets. In the past, tickets were distributed in Washington which put a premium on proximity. The White House says families from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and California will attend this year.

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• Focusing on education. The theme of the event is “let’s go play.” The activities at the event are designed to “teach children about the fun ways to exercise your body and mind” a White House fact sheet said. They include healthy eating demonstrations, live musical performances, as well as dance and yoga workshops.

A White House press release also claimed that "this is the first time the activities at the White House Easter Egg Roll have been broadcast online." Turns out that was an exaggeration. The Monitor's online editor, Jimmy Orr, directed the website in the Bush White House and reports that Bush-era Easter Egg festivities were also webcasted live.

In any case, the Obama White House web site is offering four separate video feeds of the event at www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.

The Easter Egg Roll is a massive logistical undertaking. Some 30,000 guests are expected. They will be broken into five groups which each will get to spend two hours at the White House.

The greenest eggs

Kids age 10 and under will get a colorful wooden souvenir egg signed by the President and First Lady. Lest you worry about the trees that gave their lives for the eggs, the White House assures that the eggs are made in the US from “environmentally and socially sustainable managed forests.” The Obama press shop claims the souvenir egg is the greenest in history.  Here's a link to it.

Those over age ten or who could not attend the festivities in Washington are being offered the chance to buy one of the eggs on line at https://www.nationalparks.org/about/store/products/.

The power of kids

According to official Easter Egg Roll history, First Lady Dolly Madison joined local Washington children to roll eggs at the Capitol in 1814. In subsequent years, eggs rolls made such a mess that in 1876 Congress passed the Turf Protection Law banning the use of the Capitol lawn as a playground. In 1877, the weather on Easter was bad. But in 1878, children gathered at the White House gates until President Rutherford Hayes invited them in for an egg roll. The White House Easter Egg Roll has taken place every year since. During World Wars I and II and during the White House renovation the event was held on the National Mall.

Most egg rollers do not end up moving in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But in 1927, future first lady Nancy Reagan attended the festivities. First Ladies are the official hosts of the Easter Egg Rolls and Mrs. Reagan hosted eight of them when she and her husband lived at the White House.

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