WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama thanked the audience at the White House for “sending a message to the man upstairs” for the beautiful weather in his remarks to the thousands of children and their parents gathered on the sunny South Lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll.
The president’s entrance was prefaced by a welcome from Robbie Novak,a 9-year-old YouTube sensation better known as Kid President. After Jessica Sanchez,last year’s American Idol runner-up,sang the national anthem,Michelle Obama encouraged kids and their parents to exercise,in accordance with this year’s theme of “Be Healthy,Be Active,Be You!”
She told the audience to lead an active lifestyle,saying,“We want you guys to have a good time and keep moving and be healthy.” She added a warning to kids to “eat your vegetables,OK?”
The Obama family came to the lawn from the Truman Balcony,where the president handed Robbie a whistle and told him to start the event.
At the shriek of the whistle,about a dozen children chased colorful,hard-boiled eggs down individual rows with long-handled wooden spoons. When one little girl had difficulty getting her egg to move,the first lady swooped in to the rescue,and the girl was able to successfully push her egg to the finish line.
Families could participate in all kinds of activities. Celebrities,including Jordin Sparks,Austin Mahone and The Wanted,entertained on the Rockin’ Egg Roll Stage,while the first lady cooked up healthy and tasty food with NBC weatherman Al Roker and chefs from the White House. The president was one of dozens to read on the Storytime Stage,which included selections read aloud by race car driver Danica Patrick,Elmo and actress Quvenzhané Wallis ,9,who was nominated for an Academy Award this year for her role in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Professional athletes were on hand to urge kids to get active in sports.
Lynnette Arana,35,got photos of her daughters Anisa,7,and Isabella,6,of Rockville,Md.,with some members of the Washington Redskins. Arana,who got her tickets from a friend,said the event was a real treat for her girls,who were on spring break.
“Everything was well organized,” she said. “It was really nice and everyone was really welcoming. I met a lot of people from out of town.”
Denver residents Joe and Betsy Samuel brought their son,Carter,4. Upset that he didn’t get to see Kid President,Carter said that “the tumbling” on the obstacle course in the “Eggtivity” section was his favorite event. The family came after getting tickets in the White House online lottery. Both work for a data company.
The Samuels didn’t get to see Obama reading the children’s book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” but they did take to heart the first lady’s advice about getting active.
“He did the Eggtivity section about 6,000 times,” Joe Samuel said.
“What we think was fun was just the way they opened up the South Lawn for the general public,” Samuel said. “It’s a great slice of the world. Not just Americans,but everyone who’s here with their families and having a great time.”
Although many families anticipated seeing the first family,few got to talk with Michelle Obama. Not so for Meredith and Madeline Reece,8 and 10,whose vivid red hair drew a compliment from the first lady as she walked past the girls on the lawn.
“We were star struck,I would say,” said Doug Reece,43,their father. “And when Michelle saw the girls with their red hair,she paused in her tracks and said,‘Oh my goodness,how precious!’ and shook both their hands.”
The Reeces,of Leesburg,Va.,got their tickets from a friend of the family. Reece is vice president for sales and marketing for an IT company in Alexandria,Va.
Madeline said meeting the Obamas was surprising,but fun.
“We did the egg roll,then we met the president and the first lady. It was fun and exciting. We saw the girls,then we saw their dog Bo,” she said.
Reach reporter Jess Miller at [email protected] or 202-326-9871. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.