WASHINGTON – Some 21,000 people arrived at the White House lawn on Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll, typically one of the year’s largest White House events and one that tested the hostessing chops of first lady Melania Trump.
Despite concerns that the event might not be well planned, all seemed to go off without a hitch. It was lower key and less flashy than in years past. The first lady’s spokeswoman said she wanted to focus on the more traditional aspects of the longtime Easter Egg Roll.
Children and families roamed the lawn and stopped at picnic tables to make drawings that would be sent to troops overseas. They could toss beanbags and practice soccer at makeshift soccer goals set up by D.C. United or try their hand at Sean Spicer’s job at a miniature press secretary podium set up on the lawn.
Laura Trevino of Lubbock, Texas, has entered the lottery for tickets for six years – with her daughter Madison – without any luck. She said she cried tears of joy when her husband, Rodrigo, a recruiter for the Air Force, broke the news that they had finally snagged a set for their family.
Monday morning, they were finally there, and she beamed as Madison and brother Joshua, 5, struck poses at the kid-sized press secretary podium. Madison wore a pink flowered dress and Joshua donned a dapper khaki hat.
“We’ve always wanted to go because we have such pride in our country,” Laura Trevino said.
She was excited, too, to show her husband around the District of Columbia. A longtime member of the military, he had never been to the nation’s capital.
“We wanted him to see what he was fighting for,” Trevino said, adding that she was particularly excited to see the White House because she views President Donald Trump, whom she voted for, as being supportive of military families.
The affair was smaller than it was under first lady Michelle Obama, whose Easter Egg Rolls drew celebrities, professional athletes and big-name musicians. Stephanie Grisham, Trump’s spokeswoman, said this week that the first lady decided to scale back the event because she worried it had grown too large, creating long lines for some activities.
The White House said military bands, the New Jersey-based pop-rock band Bro4, and the Martin Family Circus were set to perform and commemorative eggs were available. There will also be a “reading nook, music stage, official egg roll, and other fun events,” according to the White House website.
The Easter Egg Roll drew about 35,000 people in 2016, when the Obama White House organized a carnival-like event that highlighted the first lady’s “Let’s Move” health and fitness initiative. That year, singer Idina Menzel, Silento and others performed and the young attendees watched cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and shot hoops and batted tennis balls on courts alongside professional athletes.
This year, the White House was slow to make tickets available or to detail its plans, leaving some of the event devotees to fret that the first family would do away with the longtime tradition, which dates back to 1878. Wells Wood Turning, the Maine company that has manufactured the commemorative wooden eggs in years past, sent a frantic tweet on Feb. 20 to President Trump and other members of the first family, warning that a manufacturing deadline was looming.
But the White House came through, releasing tickets in mid-March and distributing them via an online lottery and to “schools, children’s’ hospitals and military and law enforcement families,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday. He said 18,000 eggs have been ordered, “which is in line for years past.”