White House Easter Egg Roll through the years

In this March 24, 2008 file photo, President Bush hugs a person dressed as the Easter bunny at the start of the annual Easter Egg Roll, overlooking the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. If it's Easter Monday in Washington, it's time for the White House Easter Egg Roll. The White House is getting ready, putting on the finishing touches before the gates open and 30,000 men, women and children scramble to take part in the annual tradition. The Easter Bunny and more than 14,500 hard-boiled eggs are dyed and waiting.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.

A look at the White House Easter Egg rolling through the years:

—CUE THE MUSIC: Eleven years after the Easter Egg Roll became a White House tradition, President Benjamin Harrison added music in 1889. The United States Marine Band, also known as "The President's Own," played as children romped on the South Lawn. Band director John Philip Sousa, composer of "The Star Spangled Banner," enjoyed treating them to rousing marches as they scampered about. He honored the occasion of the Easter Egg Roll with his composition, "Easter Monday on the White House Lawn," in 1929.

—LET THE GAMES BEGIN: If it's Easter Monday, eggs are being rolled across the White House South Lawn. But other egg games were played during the affairs early years, such as egg ball, toss and catch, egg croquet and egg picking — in which eggs were pecked together until they cracked. After a few days, the odor from all the broken eggs filled the air with a stench for at least a few miles.

—FIRST EGG RACES: President Richard Nixon and first lady Patricia Nixon hosted the first egg roll races in 1974. They have become an Easter Monday favorite.

—NO EGG ROLL: World War I and food rationing put the event on hold, scrambling it from 1917-1920. Egg rollers returned to the Capitol in 1942, from which they had been banished 64 years earlier, in 1878. World War II stopped the festivities again from 1943-1945.

The event was canceled in 1984 because of rain.

—TRUMAN-NO EGG ROLL: President Harry Truman did not host an Easter egg roll during his two terms in office. Food conservation efforts led him to cancel the affair from 1946-1947. After that, White House renovations turned the South Lawn into a construction zone from 1948-1952. President Dwight D. Eisenhower revived the tradition in 1953, after a 12-year hiatus.

—WHERE'S THE PRESIDENT? Several of Eisenhower's successors could not be at the White House on Easter Monday to greet the visiting egg rollers. President Gerald Ford resumed the tradition of presidential appearances at the Easter Egg Roll in 1976 — making him the first chief executive to do so since Eisenhower played host in 1960. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, attended every egg roll of their eight years in the White House. President Barack Obama presided over last year's egg roll, his first.

—TRINKETS: Patricia Nixon distributed certificates of participation as a souvenir to all egg rollers. First ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter distributed plastic eggs with printed notes inside from the first lady. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Reagan arranged a hunt for wooden eggs printed with the signatures of famous people. Wooden eggs soon became the official White House Easter Egg Roll keepsake.

—WHITE HOUSE BUNNY: In 1969, a member of Patricia Nixon's staff put on a white fleece costume with ears, and so was born the tradition of an official White House Easter Bunny. When the event was canceled in 1984 because of rain, Reagan's staff — led by the wife of Attorney General Edwin Meese, wearing a disguise — organized a tour through the White House as consolation. Goody bags also were distributed.

Occasional "celebrity" bunnies would appear, including NBC weatherman Willard Scott.


Source: National Archives, White House Historical Association, White House Web site.


On the Net:

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll

National Archives: http://tinyurl.com/y86p8qt

White House Historical Association: http://tinyurl.com/yaequwm

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