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White House Easter Egg Roll draws a huge crowd after storm delays

A huge crowd descended on the White House lawn for the start of this year's Easter Egg Roll, after the event was delayed by thunder and lightning.
White House Easter Egg Roll draws a huge crowd after storm delays
Posted at 1:15 PM, Apr 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-01 14:15:17-04

Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the Easter egg roll at the White House for 90 minutes on Monday, but the event eventually kicked off under gray skies with a large crowd including many youngsters wearing ponchos or colorful jackets against light rain.

More than 40,000 people — 10,000 more than last year — were expected to attend, attempting to coax hard-boiled eggs across the lawn to a finish line. This year's theme was “EGG-ucation,” and led by Jill Biden, a teacher for more than 30 years.

“Easter reminds us of the power of hope and renewal, and sacrifice and resurrection,” President Joe Biden told attendees, speaking from the White House balcony, where he was flanked by two large Easter bunnies, one wearing sunglasses like his. “But mainly love and grace towards one another."

President Biden said this year's egg roll was a time to “cherish the blessings, the possibilities that we have as Americans."

“That’s what I see in our country. We’re a great nation because we’re a good people,” he said. "Our values are solid.”

The president then headed out on the lawn, bending down to help a few youngsters with their eggs. He blew a whistle to officially start the roll — an annual tradition first held in 1878.

Egg roll guests included thousands of military and veteran families, their caregivers and survivors. Members of the general public claimed tickets through an online lottery and were being admitted in nine waves until the evening.

Among those participating with the children was Harry Dunn, a former police officer who defended the U.S. Capitol against rioters on Jan. 6 and is now running for Congress in Maryland. Texas Democratic Rep. Colin Allred, now a Senate candidate, high-fived kids after their rolls.

A large schoolhouse erected on the South Lawn offered kids activities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM — including making circuit-breakers or simulating a fossil dig. Youngsters also wrote notes to U.S. troops and first responders with Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization.

“I'm a teacher so I love any time when we can turn the White House into a classroom,” the first lady said, noting that “the South Lawn is transforming into our learning playground and school community.”

She noted that this year's setup included a reading nook and exhibits on space travel and dinosaur fossils.

The first couple also sat Monday for an interview with NBC's “Today” and said that Easter for them on Sunday featuring putting some dollar bills in some plastic easter eggs and holding a hunt with their grandchildren. 

“We’re still missing one,” joked the first lady. The president drew criticism from top conservatives, and the campaign of former President Donald Trump, who is now running to reclaim the White House, by proclaiming March 31 as "Transgender Day of Visibility" on a year when Easter also fell on the day.

But President Biden offered a message of unity on Monday, saying the egg roll was taking place at "the people’s house.”

“We just like to open it up," he told NBC of the White House. "It always makes me feel good to look out there and see, just average Americans, walking around and looking at what’s going around 'cause they own it.”

President Biden was asked about his final campaign as he seeks his second term and said, “I just think people are so tired of the negativity that is propagated that they just want to get engaged. They want to change things," he said.

The first lady added that she’d been traveling the country campaigning and that “people are ready to go, and we’re going to win this."

The first lady still teaches English and writing at a northern Virginia community college. She and President Biden did not host the egg roll during the first year of his administration in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it resumed the last two years.

The event dates to the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, who opened the White House lawn to children after they were kicked off the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

SEE MORE: Biden criticized for declaring March 31 'Transgender Day of Visibility'


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