Friday, October 19, 2012

White House Welcomes Guests From Across US For #WHGarden Fall Social

Storify recap: A special event for new media enthusiasts during the annual Fall Garden Tour...
The White House on Friday welcomed a group of special guests for the #WHGarden Fall Social, the second-ever social media gathering held in conjunction with the bi-annual garden tours.  The 35 citizens, mostly women, were selected from an online application pool of hundreds, and came from across the US--including California and Hawaii--to have a unique day with aides and officials, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the White House.  (Above: The group in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, on the East side of the White House)

The event was coordinated by the White House new media team, and everyone in the tour group engages with the White House on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.  Tweeting was encouraged with the hashtag #WHGarden, and mad thumbtyping and photographing ensued as the gang, who included authors, journalists, gardeners, and fitness experts with a major interest in First Lady Michelle Obama's national Let's Move! campaign, had a lovely day. (Above:  The group poses for a photo in the EEOB after their tour)

The fact that it was raining didn't seem to bother anyone.  The guests arrived at 7:30 AM for a private tour of the South Lawn before the grounds were opened to the public for the third day of this year's annual Fall Garden Tour. (Above: @RecessDoctor takes a photo at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden as @CookinTeens tweets)

Led by Grounds Superintendent Dale Haney, the group Tweeted their way through the damp and beautiful Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, and the South Lawn.  Haney pointed out historic plantings and Presidential trees, and there was a long stop at Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden at the bottom of the South Lawn.

The 1,500 square foot plot is currently laden with Fall crops, including pak choy, red peppers, eggplants, artichokes, winter lettuces, and many, many herbs. Supervising Horticulturalist Jim Adams and gardener Matt Burch were on hand to answer many, many questions.  The four-season garden will have hoop houses added next month, Adams said, ahead of the first frost, so it will continue to grow through the cold months.  Pumpkins have already been harvested and stored for Halloween carving fun for the Obama girls, Burch said.  (Above:  The Kitchen Garden, with peppers in the foreground)

President Obama made a surprise appearance on the Colonnade by the Rose Garden shortly after 9:00 AM, thrilling the special group as well as hundreds of other visitors who were then on the grounds for the public tour.  The President, joined by First Dog Bo, caused screams of sheer delight as he waved to the crowd before entering the Oval Office.

After the garden tour, beginning at 10:30 AM, the Fall Social group had a session in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  They were given a wide-ranging "briefing" from Deputy Director of Digital Strategy Katelyn Sabochik; Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses; photographer Sonya N. Hebert, who travels with Mrs. Obama; and Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement.  (Above: Yosses speaks to the gang)

This White House Storify of the Tweets offers a good recap of the day's action:

This year, for the first time since she broke ground for the South Lawn vegetable plot in 2009, Mrs. Obama did not host her annual Fall Kitchen Garden Harvest with invited school children.  Instead, the White House expanded its schedule for the public Fall garden tours, welcoming thousands of visitors for two weekends instead of one as in years past.

Part of the action on the South Lawn on Friday morning was carried on a White House livestream, and later in the day the White House released the special video, below, which combines archival footage about the Kitchen Garden with the day's action.

*Photos in body of post by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama