- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009


President Obama and his family joined the thousands who arrived Monday at the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, reading storybooks and helping children shoot basketballs.

The thousands who began arriving shortly after sunrise had to cover their Sunday best in winter coats and wool hats to protect against near-freezing temperatures.

More than 30,000 people from 45 states and the District are expected to attend the event, according to the White House. This year’s theme, “Let’s go play,” encourages U.S. youth to lead healthy and active lives.

First lady Michelle Obama began the official events at about 10:30 a.m.

“Our goal today is to have fun,” said Mrs. Obama, who was flanked by her husband, Mr. Obama, and their young daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Her lighthearted remarks, from a White House balcony, followed those of the president and Black Eyed Peas songstress Fergie singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“I’m not really in charge today,” Mr. Obama said. “My sole job, in addition to thanking Fergie for that wonderful rendition of our national anthem and thanking my buddy, the Easter Bunny, for being here, is to introduce my first lady, your first lady, Michelle Obama.”

Fergie, dressed in white gloves and a short white dress and a lime-green top, later told the crowd she wore a “little girlie dress” for Easter, then thanked her “new friends the Obamas” before breaking into her hit “Glamorous.”

The White House this year attempted to make the event more open and accessible by offering tickets online, instead of having people stand in line for tickets, in advance, outside of the White House.

Families from as far away as Hawaii, Alaska and California are attending this year, according to the White House.

Many of the activities, on the White House’s South Lawn, are being broadcast live on the White House Web site, www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.

In addition to the performances on the music stage, the White House is broadcasting such events as “Celebrity Chefs in the Kid’s Kitchen” and readings on the Storytime Stage. Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn is scheduled to participate.

Mrs. Obama joined her daughters and mother, Marian Robinson, in reading the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Joffe Numeroff.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Robinson took turns reading while Sasha and Malia held up the large version of the book to show the pictures to the other children.

Mr. Obama read “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.

Mr. Obama pointed to a picture in the book and said: “That’s a wild thing. It’s like a dragon-looking thing.”

When Mr. Obama finished the story, almost all of the children clapped, but one started crying.

“These wild things can be a little scary,” Mr. Obama said with a smile as someone picked up the boy and held him.

The White House says this year’s souvenir Easter egg is the “greenest” egg in history.

The 2009 egg is made in the United States from Forest Stewardship Council-certified hardwood. The certification means the wood comes from environmentally and socially sustainable forests, the White House said. The egg can be purchased at www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.

In keeping with the theme of healthy and active living, activities included the minibasketball, where Mr. Obama went after reading, dance workshops, children’s yoga and rope jumping, in addition to the traditional Easter egg hunt and Easter egg roll.

Washington Wizards basketball star Etan Thomas and Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham also are scheduled to participate.

The annual event began in 1878 when President Hayes invited area children to roll eggs on the South Lawn, according to the White House.

More than 30,000 wooden eggs and 13,000 hard-boiled and dyed egg will be used this year.

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