WASHINGTON — The plans were hatched, the eggs were boiled. It’s time for the 140th White House Easter Egg Roll, taking place Monday on the South Lawn.
Orchestrated by the East Wing, the festivities are Melania Trump’s second crack at the Egg Roll as first lady and her first as a full-time White House resident. Last year, Trump, who was living in New York through the completion of the school year, oversaw the event, which marked a scaling-down and return to basics for the annual eggstravaganza. But this year’s Egg Roll will showcase a first lady who has more fully embraced the role of White House hostess, just weeks before the White House holds its first formal state visit with France.
This year’s Egg Roll will feature activity stations, including the first lady’s new addition of lawn bowling, as well as the egg rolling, egg and cookie decorating stations, a state egg display, cards for troops and costumed characters. The White House is expecting nearly 30,000 attendees at the event, which will feature entertainment from the US Marine, Army, Air Force and Navy Bands. Readers at the reading nook will include the first lady, director of national intelligence Dan Coats, Secretaries Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos, and director of legislative affairs Marc Short.
The egg rolling tradition began in the 1870s on Capitol grounds. After a particularly rotten 1876 roll in which eyewitness John C. Rathbone observed “the wanton destruction of the grass on the terraces of the park,” President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation to protect Capitol grounds, which prohibited egg rolling, per the National Archives.
But in 1878, a more egg-friendly President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed children to roll their eggs on the White House South Lawn.
According to an article in that evening’s edition of the Evening Star, per the National Archives, the children were quite pleased with their new egg rolling headquarters: “Driven out of the Capitol grounds, the children advanced on the White House grounds to-day and rolled eggs down the terraces back of the Mansion, and played among the shrubbery to their heart’s content.”
Now, 140 years later the tradition continues, this year as a collaboration between the White House, the White House Historical Association, and the National Park Service.
It’s always been a big production for the first lady’s office.
Florence Harding dyed the eggs herself in 1921, The Washington Post reported.
In 1927, the Post reported that Grace Coolidge brought her pet raccoon, Rebecca, out on the grounds on a leash, much to the raccoon’s chagrin.
“The crush was too much for Rebecca and she showed her displeasure plainly. But the first lady was not so easily discouraged. She carried the pet indoors and returned to the delight of the crowd,” the report said.
Eleanor Roosevelt oversaw the egg roll during her husband’s four terms in office, including 1937, when more than 50,000 children attended. Cold weather was to blame for depressed turnout in 1940, when just under 5,500 children attended, per the Syracuse Herald-Journal.
During the Obama administration, first lady Michelle Obama used the Egg Roll to promote her “Let’s Move” initiative, and the star-studded lineup included performances by Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were among the attendees in 2016.
The tradition of the costumed Easter Bunny began with a Pat Nixon staff member in 1969, per the White House Historical Association.
Former Trump administration press secretary Sean Spicer has a history with the Egg Roll himself: as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, he was the man inside the Easter bunny suit. He did not reprise the role last year — that we know of.
To this day, the Egg Roll remains one of the only times of the year that the White House South Lawn is open to the public (with tickets) to enjoy.
In addition to the thousands of hard boiled eggs on the South Lawn, guests will receive an official wooden White House Easter Egg, which this year features a presidential seal on the front and the President and First Lady’s signature on the back.
The Incredible Egg, which provides all 30,000 real eggs for rolling, dyeing, and eating, also provides the first lady with a commemorative egg gift of her own. The 2018 Commemorative Egg, the 41st of its kind, was designed by Master Egg Artist Deborah Grassel, who holds a Masters in Egg Art from the International Egg Art Guild.
The ornate glass egg opens up to feature a miniature President and Mrs. Trump standing on a bridge and will be presented to the first lady by representatives of the American Egg Board on Monday morning.