White House Easter Egg Roll rolls on for 141st year, the third for Trumps

Maria Puente
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White House Easter Egg Roll rolls on for 141st year, the third for Trumps

It's first lady Melania Trump's third White House Easter Egg Roll, a 141-year-old tradition that attracts thousands of kids.

The 141st White House Easter Egg Roll – and first lady Melania Trump's third – got underway on the South Lawn Monday.

More than 30,000 people were expected to join President Trump for the annual rewind of one of the oldest White House traditions, aimed mostly at kids. 

The main event is the spectacle of children rolling hard-boiled eggs across the lawn, but the first lady introduced two new additions to the festivities: musical eggs and a game of hopscotch named for her "Be Best" initiative to improve the well-being of American children.

Also, "Children will have the opportunity to spread kindness by mailing postcards to anyone they choose – friends, family, members of the military – directly through a United States Postal Service mailbox that will be on the South grounds," the first lady's office said in a statement in advance.

"Arriving soon: President @realDonaldTrump and @FLOTUS at the #EasterEggRoll2019!" the first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, tweeted.

The president, accompanied by the first lady and someone dressed as a giant Easter bunny, addressed the crowd from the balcony, speaking about rebuilding the military and the economy.  

Other activities included egg hunts, a display of state eggs on the Ellipse, photo ops for families, egg- and cookie-decorating stations, costumed characters, and a commemorative egg gift for the kids after the event's conclusion.

The gift will feature colorful eggs made by Maine Wood Concepts, which created 100,000 wooden eggs featuring the Trumps' signatures. 

The traditional reading nooks were to be manned by such luminaries as the first lady, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kellyanne Conway.

Kids take part in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 22, 2019.

This year, the first lady was dressed in a Michael Kors baby blue below-the-knees suede coat dress and, to protect the lawn, flat shoes instead of her usual spike heels. She and the president carried whistles, blowing them to start the races.

Later, the first lady, who is always most relaxed when interacting with young children, joined kids at a table for drawing and writing postcards, and later read “The Wonderful Things You Will Be” by Emily Winfield Martin, to a group of kids at a reading station. The book talked about the importance of kindness, one of the messages of Trump's Be Best campaign.

First lady Melania Trump reads a story to children during the 141st Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House April 22, 2019.

Afterwards, on her way back up the South Lawn, she responded to a question from reporters about the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka in which at least 290 people died and 500 were injured. According to the White House pool reporter, when asked if she had any message for Sri Lanka, she answered:

“Prayers for them; thoughts and prayers.”

According to the White House Historical Association, the Monday after Easter was celebrated by Washingtonians, starting in the 1870s, on the West Grounds of the Capitol while the presidential family celebrated privately at the White House.

First lady Melania Trump draws with children during the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House on April 22, 2019.

But Congress put the kibosh on egg rolling in 1876 due to concerns about damage to its grounds. In 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes opened the South Lawn for the event, which became a community tradition and one of the only times during the year the public can enter the White House gates and spread out on the South Lawn. (In the more recent era of security concerns, they first have to obtain tickets.) 

There have been years when the egg roll was cancelled due to war and food rationing, as during World War I and World War II. And from 1948 through 1952, President Harry Truman’s renovation of the White House made the South Lawn a construction zone.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower revived the tradition after a 12-year hiatus, although some later presidents were busy on the day. President Gerald R. Ford reinstated the presidential appearance in 1976 — the first since Eisenhower had acted as host in 1960.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House Easter Egg Roll rolls on for 141st year, the third for Trumps