WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama joined the Easter Bunny to welcome a crowd of children, parents and volunteers to the White House South Lawn on Monday for the 136th annual Easter Egg Roll.
The first couple walked onto the Truman Balcony, which overlooks the South Lawn, and the President wished everyone a “Happy Easter.” As he looked out onto the crowd he added, “This is the biggest event we have at the White House all year long.”
Mrs. Obama said there would be more than 30,000 people coming through the White House gates before the day was over. This is the one day of the year when kids have the run of the entire South Lawn.
During the celebration, there was a stage with live bands and singers performing, like internet pop-star Cam Anthony. There was also a storytime stage, where the first couple took turns reading passages from children’s books. The President read from his favorite book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” while Mrs. Obama read passages from a children’s book titled, “My Garden.”
And, of course there’s the namesake of the event – the Easter Egg Roll – a tradition where toddlers take a wooden spoon and push or roll a boiled and dyed egg across a 10 foot swath of grass, ostensibly racing to be first.
For most children, it’s just parents and volunteers who cheer them on. But one lucky set of kids had Mr. Obama blow the starting whistle while Mrs. Obama and the Easter Bunny cheered and helped the little ones get to the finish line.
The White House also opened up the President’s private basketball and tennis courts, and professional athletes showed eager children some moves and coached them along. President Obama made a surprise appearance at the basketball court and shot off three balls, before making it into the hoop. The crowd around the President egged him on yelling, “Shoot it, shoot it!”
According to pool reports, afterwards the President posed for more photos with the kids before walking over to cheer on other children playing tennis. After a few practice swings, the President played doubles with professional player Sam Querrey and two youngsters.
Before the first couple came out, the Marine Corps Band stuck with the children’s theme playing selections from classics like Sesame Street and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The White House said that other readers on the storytime stage included actor Jim Carrey, and reigning Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, along with former NFL player and NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster.
The first lady also used the event to stress the importance of healthy food and exercise. As part of that effort, the White House had a dance party, an obstacle course that included sports drills and a yoga clinic. While Mrs. Obama was on the book stage, she took a moment to encourage all the children to visit her vegetable garden and learn about tasty, healthy foods.
As the children left the White House, each was given a carved wooden memorial Easter egg with the White House seal painted on one side – not that any of them will need any reminding of this day.