Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greeted visitors to the event on the South Lawn, with the president expressing relief that the early-morning fog had lifted for the festivities. About 30,000 people were expected to attend.
“I just want to say welcome,” the president told visitors from the Truman Balcony. “You guys brought the great weather. It was a little shaky this morning, but all of you did a great job sending a message upstairs.”
Mrs. Obama thanked special guest Robby Novak, a 9-year-old from Henderson, Tenn., who became a YouTube sensation by dressing in a suit like the president and delivering pep talks to the nation.
“You make us all want to work hard, be better,” Mrs. Obama told the boy. “So you’re going to spend a little time in the Oval Office just fixing things up for this president, aren’t you?”
The first lady urged guests to “keep moving, be healthy, and kids: Eat your vegetables.”
The daylong festivities included storytelling, yoga, interactive dance, obstacle courses, playing sports with professional athletes and the traditional egg roll contest. Among the athletes who attended the event were NASCAR’s Danica Patrick, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards and Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers.
On a basketball court, Mr. Obama shot hoops with pro athletes and children, making only 2 of 22 shots, according to a pool reporter who watched him.
The reporter described the president’s efforts: “Miss. Miss. Off the rim. Miss. Miss. Off the rim. Airball. He moved closer to the net. But time and again, he missed.”
At one point, the president handed a ball to a boy and asked for help. The boy made the layup.
“He couldn’t make one. I had to help him out,” said Kahron Campbell, 10, of Landover.
For the fifth year in a row, tickets were distributed online. More than 300,000 tickets were requested via the online lottery, and guests from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were selected as winners.
It could be one of the public’s few chances to visit the White House this year. When the “sequestration” budget cuts took effect March 1, the administration canceled regular public tours of the White House, saying the Secret Service resources that were needed for the tours could no longer be justified.