President Gets Things Rolling at White House
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Thousands of children frolicked on the White House lawn Monday, hunting wooden eggs and rolling real ones in a rite of spring that converted the presidential estate into a playground.
President Bush joined briefly in the fun, blowing a shiny whistle to start an Easter Egg Roll in which his 3-year-old granddaughter, Marshall Bush, was entered.
Seven-year-old Michael Angel of Fairfax, Va., was unabashed at the competition.
While the others nudged, poked or putted their eggs along with plastic spoons, Michael ran away from the field with his egg firmly esconced in spoon.
″He’s pretty cool,″ Michael said about Bush.
Mia Angel, Michael’s 5-year-old sister, said the president was fun, but ″he didn’t shake my hand.″
Actually, there were no winners or losers in the 10-yard races. All comers got wooden eggs bearing the names of George and Barbara Bush.
The same prizes were to be found without too much scrutiny under hay strewn about in pens elsewhere on the lawn.
Some eggs bore real signatures from the likes of Michael Jackson and other famous White House visitors.
At day’s end, Debra Romash, director of the White House Visitors Office, reported that 23,250 people came through the gates, up from about 22,000 last year.
The wait for some families to get in was hours; others, like the four children that Frankie Mason brought from a shelter in nearby Alexandria, Va., had special passes that let them right in.
″C’mon,″ said Ms. Mason, lining up her charges for pictures in front of a billboard-sized Easter egg. ″We need to know that we were here.″
Vin and Paula Paolino came from Boston with sons David, 6, and James, 3. They arrived on the Ellipse at 10:15 a.m.; at 12:38 p.m., they were still in line, 50 yards - and another 20 minutes - from the White House gate.
They had no complaints.
″I’ve been telling all my patients about this for three months. Everybody’s been cheering us on,″ said Vin Paolino, a dentist.
Eric Valdes, a spindly 7-year-old from Wheaton, Md., displayed unusual strength at the Easter Egg Roll. He gave one powerful swipe that lofted his egg across the finish line - and onto the head of Margaret Hedger, intent on taking a picture of her own child in the same race.
The young mother from Stafford, Va., was not hurt, but said she would ″probably not″ be back next year.
The lawn teemed with clowns, minstrels, an Abe Lincoln look-alike, balloon- blowers, dancers, bands, a yo-yo master, and other entertainers, including puppeteer Shari Lewis.
″I want to get my face painted,″ said 9-year-old Chad Hampton of Herndon, Va., who came with his sister, mother and other friends. ″I got lucky. I got a balloon.″
″We got up at 6 a.m. We left at 7 and were down here at 8:15,″ said his mother, Margie Hampton, who took the morning off from work as a medical social worker.
″Don’t ask me if it’s worth it. But what we do for kids 3/8″
Thousands got Virginia pine seedlings, including Beverly Johnson, who brought 11 youngsters from a local day-care center she runs.
″We’ll plant it right in the (center’s) front yard,″ said Damares Blondonville, her assistant.
All the children got canvas sacks crammed with books, suggestions for celebrating Earth Day and other souvenirs.