From the White House balcony, President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, their son Barron Trump, 11, and the Easter Bunny welcomed thousands of children, members of the military, staff, volunteers, and families to the 139th annual Easter Egg Roll on Monday, April 17. “Think of it, 139. It began a long time ago: 1878,” President Trump told the crowd. “And we will be stronger and bigger and better as a nation than ever before.” He thanked the many volunteers, and especially the First Lady, who noted how pleased she and her family were to host and renew “this wonderful tradition.”
On this 88th day of the administration, amid clouds in the sky and occasional rain, children dressed in Easter pastels skipped and ran freely across the White House south lawn. Twenty-one thousand people from across the country, many of whom won tickets from an online lottery, participated in hours of festivities. Parents snapped photos with members of the Trump family and administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, and Omarosa Manigault, director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.
Let the Fun Begin!
The annual Easter Egg Roll has its roots in the 1800s when local schoolchildren on spring break would play on the Capitol grounds and hold hard-boiled egg races down Capitol Hill. This tradition ended when Congress passed the Turf Protection Law banning children from using the grounds as their “playground.” In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes began to formally welcome children to the White House grounds each year at Easter.
This year’s egg roll seemed to weave together three themes: children, family and the military. There were military families, multiple military bands, and a gunnery sergeant singing the U.S. national anthem. At the Operation: Thank Our Troops station, children and families could color cards to send to soldiers serving overseas. Conway, the president’s counselor, brought her children to the egg roll and highlighted the challenge of work-family balance. “The hardest part of my job is being away from my four children,” she told TFK. When asked about the most rewarding aspect, she said, “helping the nation and watching President Trump thrive.”
During the Easter Egg Roll, parents struggled to keep up as their children rolled brightly-colored eggs with wooden spoons down the South Lawn. Outside of the roll, kids tossed beanbags and played soccer—Barron’s passion—with Bobby Boswell from D.C. United. Some danced to the music of bands Bro4 and the Martin Family Circus. Many kids took turns snapping photos with popular characters such as Elmo, Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat, the Teenage Ninja Turtles, and Peppa Pig. And others took turn posing with the miniature White House press secretary podium for funny photos.
The Reading Nook was a particularly popular spot for children, who listened quietly as Spicer, Sessions, and Melania Trump took turns reading children’s books aloud. The First Lady said she chose to read the book, "Party Animals," by television host Kathie Lee Gifford, “because it shows that we are all different, but we are all the same.” TFK caught up with the First Lady following her read-aloud to ask about her favorite part of her new role as First Lady. “Serving the country,” she told TFK. “It’s an honor helping people in the great nation.”
Meeting the Administration
While the Easter Egg Roll is not a political event, reporters asked administration officials about the latest developments in North Korea and Afghanistan. Several administration officials, including Spicer, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and Conway, answered some questions for TIME For Kids readers.
Spicer spoke about some of the accomplishments in Trump’s first 100 days. “I think the appointment of Neil Gorsuch and his confirmation to the Supreme Court was huge,” he told TFK “He’s really delivering, in terms of bringing back jobs, keeping the country safe, growing the influence of our country around the world.”
Sanders was also on hand as she waited for her two children. She said they were likely “rolling in the grass with the eggs!” She said events like these were the most rewarding part of her job. “Every day is different than the one before.” Sanders told TFK. “That’s what I love; that makes it exciting.”
For kids who may want to attend next year’s White House Easter Egg Roll, the lottery is posted in March on the White House website.