President Obama on Monday morning welcomed thousands of guests to the South Lawn of the White House as he opened the 135th anniversary Easter Egg Roll, introducing First Lady Michelle Obama as "the star of the Obama family." The First Couple was flanked by the First Daughters, pint-sized YouTube star Robby Novak, aka "Kid President," American Idol's Jessica Sanchez, and the Easter Bunny as they greeted the cheering throng packed into the most famous backyard in America. (Above, Sanchez sings the National Anthem as the First Family and company listen)
The morning began with the White House hidden in a pea soup fog at 7:30 AM, but by the time the First Family walked onto the Truman Balcony shortly after 10:00 AM, the sun was blazing as the Obamas celebrated the 135th anniversary of the annual event.
"Today we’re going to have more than 30,000 people who will pass through this yard in celebration of nutrition and health and activity," Mrs. Obama, clad in a J. Crew floral and striped t-shirt, a striped jacket, and white jeans, told the cheering crowd as they stood amidst activity stations devoted to promoting her signature Let's Move! campaign, with the theme "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!" (Above, with daughter Malia)
"We want you to have a great time. We want you to run around. We want you to go over and see the White House Garden," Mrs. Obama said. "We want you to learn about making tasty, healthy food."
Guests came from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the winners of a free ticket lottery last month, which required entrants to be "escorted" by children under 13 years old.
The festivities starred elite athletes--including a spate of 2012 Team USA Olympic medalists and NBA players--playing with the kids, while six acclaimed chefs including Food Network stars and DC's own Spike Mendelsohn demonstrated healthy recipes in the Play With Your Food area of the South Lawn. And of course there was the traditional egg-rolling race, with kids pushing colored hard boiled eggs up a grassy track with wooden kitchen spoons. (Above, the First Family and Kid President cheer on a group of egg rollers)
After watching two egg races, the President, clad in a white striped gray shirt (no jacket, tie) shook hands with adults and gave high-fives to kids and then made his way across the South Lawn, past tumblers and dancers, a Yoga Garden and sports courts, and the celebrities reading kids' books on the Storytime Stage.
NASCAR star Danica Patrick and Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass were among the readers, as were all the members of the First Family. (Above, Kass discussed veggies with produce puppets the SuperSprowtz)
During the President's star turn in the story garden, he read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, joined by First Dog Bo.
"If you know how to read then the whole world opens up to you," President Obama told the kids.
Mrs. Obama later read a group of kids Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, though when she was done she admitted to her audience that she wasn't sure exactly what the popular book's message is.
"Eat your vegetables, how about that," Mrs. Obama said.
Among the guests were families of the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shooting victims, a White House official said. The White House also confirmed that Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton, and her brother, 10-year-old Nathaniel Pendleton Jr., were guests. The younger Pendleton played tennis with President Obama.
The President visited several activity stations, including the basketball court. A little off his game, the hoopster-in-chief missed more than a dozen shots before he finally sank one. (The President in action on the basketball court)
“Oh, man," said the frustrated President as his shots kept hitting the rim.
"Come on. Come on. Did you see that?"
The President finally handed the ball to a ten-year-old boy who rapidly made a layup.
"He couldn't make one. I had to help him out," the boy told pool.
At Monday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney excused his boss's performance, telling reporters the President "doesn’t get to practice probably as much as he’d like to."
Mrs. Obama, meanwhile, visited the outdoor Kids' Kitchen, located close to her own Kitchen Garden, and watched as Food Network celebrity chef Anne Burrell made a healthy pasta dish for a crowd of mesmerized kids and parents. Today show's Al Roker was also on hand, and the cooking fest included Mrs. Obama leading a sing-along, with a little ditty about loving food. (Above, Mrs. Obama and Roker watch Burrell flip veggies)
Mrs. Obama declared Burrell's orechetti, sausage, mascarpone and broccoli rabe recipe "delicious," and something ideal for kids.
"You can hide the broccoli" in the cheese, Mrs. Obama said, and added that parents might enjoy the recipe with "a glass of wine."
Over on the Rockin' Egg Roll Stage, Jordin Sparks and British boy band The Wanted entertained the crowd, as did YouTube kid wonder Austin Mahone and vocalist Coco Jones.
Though the President congratulated the morning Roll guests for bringing the sun to the White House after the day broke with that thick fog--"you guys brought the great weather," he said--by mid afternoon the temperature was dropping, and the crowds who enjoyed themselves after 2:00 PM on the South Lawn were doing so in bouts of rain and chilly wind. (Above, the President and Bo on the Storytime Stage)
All the same, there were loads of happy kids and families flooding out of the White House after their time in the historic playland was done, each child clutching a gift bag. Inside: Plenty of candy, despite the health-themed day. Every bag had a package of M&Ms, a four-pack of yellow Marshmallow Peeps, a package of Goldfish crackers, and a package of Welch's fruit gummy candy.
The gift bag also contained a jump rope--this year's logo was a bunny skipping rope--and a souvenir ticket attached to the official program, a poster, as well as a coveted wooden souvenir egg, featuring the President and Mrs. Obama's stamped autographs.
Though all White House public tours were cancelled as of March 8th due to sequester budget cuts, the Roll went off without a hitch. That, despite many media outlets running headlines warning that the annual event, the largest on the White House social calendar, would also be axed.
CLICK HERE for links to all Easter Egg Roll posts.
The White House promoted the event on Twitter with the hashtag #EasterEggRoll. A selection of tweets:
So excited to host thousands of families at the @whitehouse today for the 2013 #EasterEggRoll. What a view! –mo twitter.com/FLOTUS/status/…
— FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) April 1, 2013
Photo of the Day: The Obamas join @iamkidpresident & the Easter Bunny in welcoming families to the WH #EasterEggRoll: twitter.com/whitehouse/sta…
— The White House (@whitehouse) April 2, 2013
When your egg goes off course in the Easter Egg Roll, you've earned a hug from the President: twitter.com/TheObamaDiary/…
— TheObamaDiary.com (@TheObamaDiary) April 2, 2013
Truly an amazing day. Thank you to the First Family & everyone at the #EasterEggRoll that made today amazing! twitter.com/thewanted/stat…
— the wanted (@thewanted) April 1, 2013
First Lady Michelle Obama watches daughters Malia & Sasha read to kids at the 2013 @whitehouse #EasterEggRoll: twitter.com/FLOTUS/status/…
— FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) April 1, 2013
Watch Austin Mahone perform "Heart in My Hands" behind the scenes at the 2013 @whitehouse #EasterEggRoll. youtu.be/SDgA-xZPoaU
— Let's Move! (@letsmove) April 1, 2013
*First, third and fourth photos by White House; others by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama