WASHINGTON — The last time the White House hosted an Easter Egg Roll, the president ditched the Easter Bunny and informed a child on his border wall. Terms like “masking order” and “rapid test” were not yet part of the national lexicon. A Corona was just a beer.
The world has changed incalculably since 2019, the last time 100,000 eggs were savagely burned on the South Lawn. President Biden has spent his first year in office foregoing most of the traditional events that can help ease the daily stress of being commander-in-chief. But on Monday, the patter of rain was the only interference as the president and Jill Biden, the first lady, held the first Egg Roll since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the largest event held at the White House since their move.
“This year, we finally get together, and it’s so special,” Biden said from the White House balcony, flanked by the first lady and the Easter Bunny. “It means so much to see and hear the children and all the families show up here today.”
The coronavirus seemed like a distant concern despite numerous cases this month among members of the administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill. A number of assistants who had tested positive in recent weeks were back in their offices. Some families who were invited to the White House for breakfast were tested beforehand, although not everyone present had to be tested, an official said.
About 30,000 people received tickets through a publicly available White House lottery, and they attended in slots from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday morning, participants circulating on the lawn did not seem to mind the drizzly cold. or the threat of Covid. Several members of the Biden family were in attendance, including the president’s 2-year-old grandson, who Mr Biden joked was still a little “surprised” at the sight of a giant Easter bunny.
After greeting the guests, the President descended from the balcony and performed his first official task of the day: blowing the ceremonial whistle to start the Egg Roll race. (Mr. Biden had no other public events on his schedule, but he was due to receive his daily briefing later in the afternoon.)
“Joe, you’re right in the middle of the egg,” Dr. Biden told the president, who was standing in the Egg Roll course just before starting one of the races.
But the Commander-in-Chief was in charge. He hissed and ran away, dodging the thrown eggs and the pastel-colored mayhem.
Crowds of attendees passed through several education-themed stations along the White House lawn.
“The determined spirit of education is what we wanted to honor in this Easter egg roll,” said Dr. Biden, an English teacher at Northern Virginia Community College. “So we turned the South Lawn into a school community.”
At one station, the children learned about the life cycle of an egg on its journey from the hen to the house. In a nearby tent, a chef prepared to deliver a cooking demonstration next to a miniature white house made of 1,500 meringue macaroons. “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon, singer Ciara, Broadway actress Kristin Chenoweth and a few “Sesame Street” characters were in attendance at various locations.
At another station, children searched for some of the 100,000 eggs that had been hand-dyed and donated to the White House by farmers with the American Egg Board, one of the event’s oldest sponsors. Leftover quiche, sandwiches and cookies decorated with images of Commander and Willow, the White House pets, would be donated to a local food pantry, officials said.
“It’s just a chance for us to come out and promote the eggs,” said Andy Seger, a farmer from Dubois, Indiana, who brought his four children to the event. “It’s been two long years.
For Stephen Durfee, a California chef who has spent his day overseeing the meringue-made White House, the highlight was seeing the Bidens up close for the first time. He said he had met Dr. Biden earlier in the day and was able to ask him a few questions, including about his favorite room in the White House. (It was the blue room.)
The Egg Roll was the second major event held on the lawn in recent weeks: The White House opened the doors to visitors for garden tours this month. Tours of the interior of the White House resumed Friday and are expected to take place weekly.
Stewart D. McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association, said the Egg Roll’s return was a sign of hope that the Biden administration would continue to open the White House to visitors.
“This is the biggest event to be held at the White House in any given year,” he said. “We haven’t had this event in the past two years. We were very excited for this to happen and for this accessibility to resume.
Carlos Elizondo, the White House Social Secretary, said the First Family “looks forward to hosting more events in the months ahead and sharing the White House with the American people.”
Mr McLaurin said he could tell public interest in the Egg Roll had increased as coronavirus restrictions eased. This year, he said, the White House Historical Association sold the 50,000 handcrafted wooden eggs that commemorate the event each year.
This year’s eggs featured the White House pets and signatures of the president and first lady. Each child received a commemorative wooden egg to take home.
Mr McLaurin said the association spends around $750,000 each year on the Easter egg roll and plans to order up to 80,000 wooden eggs for next year’s event.
Planning would begin almost immediately.
“It’s quite a complex process,” he says.