By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON (AP) — Snoopy, Charlie Brown and “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon roamed the soggy White House grounds on Monday for the first Easter egg roll since before the coronavirus pandemic.
Undaunted by rain, President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, kicked off the equivalent of a daylong garden party for some 30,000 kids and adults, including celebrities and costumed characters.
A pair of Easter bunnies escorted the Bidens onto the Blue Room balcony to welcome the crowd to their backyard. The first lady chose “egg-ucation” as the theme.
The South Lawn was turned into a school community because “education never stops,” said Jill Biden, a community college professor.
“The determined spirit of education is what we wanted to honor in this Easter Egg Roll,” she said.
President Biden said it was “so special” to be able to gather this year after the pandemic forced the White House to cancel the 2020 and 2021 Easter egg rolls.
“It means so much to see and hear the children and all the families show up to be here today,” he said, citing their joy, laughter and occasional outbursts of “there’s the Easter bunny.”
Biden’s infant grandson, Beau, was among several family members present, including the boy’s parents, Hunter Biden and his wife, Melissa. Also on hand were the Bidens’ daughter Ashley Biden, and Natalie Biden, one of their granddaughters.
After their remarks, the president and first lady went down to the lawn to watch as groups of children used wooden spoons to coax brightly dyed hard-boiled eggs across a patch of wet grass to the finish line.
“Ready, set,” Biden said before blowing a whistle to start the competition. He later coached a young egg-roller, saying “Go, You got it!”
The couple then visited the reading nook, where Biden held up a copy of “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” as the first lady quickly read aloud “so you’re all not soaking wet,” she told those who had been waiting in the light rain. Fallon joined them afterward and read his own children’s book, “Nana Loves You More.” Jill Biden’s grandchildren call her “Nana.”
Hunter Biden introduced himself to people sitting in the reading area, and to others lined up on the other side of a fence, at times carrying his infant son Beau in his arms.
The Easter egg roll featured several other stations, including a talent show, a place to teach kids about farming, a photo-taking station, a physical “egg-ucation” zone with an obstacle course, and a “cafetorium” where children learned to make treats.
Actor-singer Kristin Chenoweth also appeared in the reading nook.
The White House gates opened at around 7 a.m., with the first of five waves of people streaming through. Many came prepared for the cold, damp weather with umbrellas, rain ponchos and plastic covers over baby strollers.
Maya Kennedy, 10, of Portland, Oregon, said she was having a good time at her first White House Easter egg roll despite the weather. She had seen some of the PBS KIDS characters and had heard the first lady speak. The fifth grader said she also wanted to meet Jill Biden.
“She’s really cool,” Maya said near the reading nook as she watched the first lady pose for photos with participants after her reading, including with White House press secretary Jen Psaki and her family.
The White House Easter Egg Roll dates to 1878.