Eggs are rolling — nearly 18,000 of them — Monday at the White House.
First lady Melania Trump, hosting the 139th annual White House Easter Egg Roll, kicked off the event alongside President Donald Trump, calling it a “wonderful tradition.”
“As we renew this tradition, thank you for joining us. On behalf of the President and Barron, we wish you great fun and beautiful days coming ahead of us,” she said, also thanking the military band, White House staff and egg roll volunteers for their help.
Trump, in his suit and signature red tie, also thanked the crowd of attendees gathered below the White House balcony.
“We’re going to come out and join you and enjoy your company for a roll, a great Easter egg roll. And I don’t know if people are going to be successful, but I know a lot of people down there are going to be successful. I’ve seen those kids, and they’re highly, highly competitive,” he said.
The formal event kicked off at 7:30 a.m. ET, with multiple waves of guests arriving in two-hour increments. There will be activities, entertainment, and, of course, the actual egg roll, in which children race wooden eggs with a spoon.
“Looking forward to hosting the annual Easter Egg Roll at the @WhiteHouse on Monday!” Trump tweeted Friday afternoon alongside a pastel watercolor image of the South Lawn.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) April 14, 2017
A Trump Egg Roll
The White House Easter Egg Roll gives each first lady the opportunity to put her thumbprint on the lighthearted, family-focused event. This year, Trump’s event will mark a return to tradition.
“It’s a huge opportunity for an administration to put their mark, their seal on how the egg roll goes,” said Tommy McFly, a Washington radio personality who emceed the event for six years under the Obama administration. “The stakes are very high. It shows the first lady’s office and the visitors’ office — it really is their moment to shine, but the eyes of the country are on it, as well.”
The first lady did a lot of research on previous White House Egg Rolls as she planned the event, her staff says.
“She wanted to get back to the tradition, so we’re bringing back some traditional elements, like military bands, and focusing on the family itself,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, told CNN.
Those traditional elements include the egg roll, an egg dying station, a cookie decorating station, an art wall, a thank-you card station where children can write notes to troops and veterans, and a reading nook.
Melania Trump made a stop at the reading nook, where she read Kathie Lee Gifford’s children’s book, “Party Animals.”
“Did you know about the book?” Trump, seated on a small, grass-covered stage, asked the children.
“I really like the book because it shows that we are all different, but we are all the same,” she said as she began reading.
Egg rolling proved to be one of the least popular activities. Children lined up for an egg hunt, decorated cookies, wrote letters to the troops, participated in a Minecraft coding activity with volunteers from Microsoft and visited characters, including several Easter bunnies.
Sesame Street’s Elmo was another popular character, prominently clad in an oversized PBS button. (Trump’s proposed budget eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.)
Volunteers handed out hard-boiled eggs on sticks. The Marine Band played selections from Sesame Street, the Muppets and Disney movies.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House press secretary Spicer stopped by the reading nook to read some children’s book classics. First daughter Tiffany Trump is scheduled to read later in the day, according to a tweet from her mother, Marla Maples.
— marla maples (@itsmarlamaples) April 17, 2017
“So proud of my beautiful daughter @TiffanyATrump she offered to read a story to the children 2day @WhiteHouse & will be sharing sweetness,” Maples wrote.
The DC United Soccer team will do soccer demonstrations, a nod to 11-year-old first son Barron’s passion for soccer. Other members of the Trump family are expected to attend as well.
Tickets were allocated to schools, children’ hospitals and military and law enforcement families, as well as the families of White House staff, according to Spicer.
Planning an egg roll is a tricky balancing act, a collaboration between the East Wing, the White House Visitors’ Office, and volunteers.
“The Easter Egg Roll is one of the most visible events and a time when the White House is showcased to a large number of people. And it’s special because it’s not just dignitaries, it’s regular people and local schoolchildren,” said CNN contributor Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies.”
She added: “(Melania Trump) has big shoes to fill when it comes to an event like this. Michelle Obama was a natural with kids.”
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SOURCE: CNN, Betsy Klein and Kate Bennett