Obamas Throw a Backyard Bash... for 30,000

First family joined throngs of guests at the White House Easter Egg Roll

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Obamas welcome 30,000 friends to the White House for some Easter fun. (Published Monday, Apr 5, 2010)

    The First Family joined thousands of families on the South Lawn of the White House today for the ultimate backyard party. The Easter Egg Roll, held annually on the Monday after Easter, was to see more than 30,000 people pass through by the time the fun ended at 5:45 p.m.

    This year's health-focused theme, "Ready, Set, Go!," is part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiate to fight childhood obesity. Sports stations got the kiddos involved in basketball, football and yoga -- plus a massive hula-hooping effort.

    The president and first lady, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Michelle's mother Marian Robinson appeared on the White House balcony shortly before 11 a.m. -- with a six-foot-plus Easter Bunny. "Glee" star Amber Riley sang the National Anthem, and Sasha started to sway to the music until the president tapped her shoulder, reminding her to put her hand over her heart.

    "As you guys know, this year I launched a nationwide initiative to try to end the epidemic of childhood obesity," Michelle Obama said after the anthem. "It's called Let’s Move. And today we have transformed the South Lawn into a playground. And our hope today is that in addition to having fun and doing some of the traditional activities like the egg roll and the Easter egg hunt, that you can learn about beginning to live a more healthy life."

    The first family headed down to the egg-rolling area to see kids roll dyed eggs across the lawn. Babies and toddlers got some "help" from their parents. Meredith Reinhart of Arlington, Va., brought her year-old son Theodore, who spent time both crawling and walking. Reinhart said she's planning to e-mail a photo to Michelle Obama because her son's attempts seemed to fit with the "Ready, Set" part of the day's theme.

    The president played with a couple of the children at the egg rolling station and danced to the theme song to "SpongeBob SquarePants" before hightailing it to the story-telling area. "I gotta go read now!" he told the crowd.

    Obama settled down under a flowering tree to read the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham" -- complete with the funny voices and over-exaggerated hand gestures necessary in any parental book reading. When he finished the story, Obama told the kids in the audience that the point of the book is that they need to try their vegetables.

    "When your parents tell you to eat your broccoli, you don't know whether you're going to like them or not. You've got to try it," he said. "When your parents tell you to eat your peas, eat your peas."

    Obama then headed off to go play basketball. The first lady read "Horton Hatches the Egg" to the crowd with Malia at her side and an American Sign Language interpreter nearby. The day's other notable story readers included "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling and actress Reese Witherspoon, whose two children also attended the event.

    The Brown family of Alexandria, Va., were one of the military families who received tickets, thereby bypassing the online lottery system that other attendees had to go through. Jacob and Kelly Brown brought their three sons, Josh, 12, Caleb, 9, and Benjamin -- who's turning 6 tomorrow, which made today a great early birthday party.

    While the boys said they liked playing football the most, mom Kelly admitted that she loved seeing the performances from the cast of "Glee."

    Not everything went off without a hitch, though. More than 30,000 people attended, in five groups of 6,000 throughout the day, and that meant long lines sometimes.

    "If they had a suggestion box, I'd say they should bite the bullet at keeping down the [attendence] numbers," said Hugh Bransford of Fairfax, Va. Bransford brought his two younger children, Josh, 12, and, Georgia, 10. Josh got in line for basketball but never got to play. Georgia said she enjoyed dyeing Easter eggs, though.

    Sports were definitely a big focus of the day. Billie Jean King, Apolo Ohno and several Redskins players including Kevin Barnes and Alvin Bowen led activities.

    And of course, there was also the president's next appointment to consider. Obama left the South Lawn before the rest of his family, as he needed to get to Nationals Park to throw the season's first pitch in the game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    For a play-by-play of the Egg Roll, visit our Twitter @dcscene, where we were tweeting out updates from the White House's South Lawn earlier today.