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First family kicks off annual Easter Egg Roll

The Obama family has welcomed thousands of children to the sun-splashed south lawn of the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, an essential rite of spring.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Obama family welcomed thousands of children to the sun-soaked South Lawn of the White House Monday for the annual Easter Egg Roll, an essential rite of spring.

The Egg Roll dates back to 1878, when President Rutherford B. Hayes was in office. In the main event, children race to push eggs through the grass using wooden spoons.

"Is everybody having a good time?" Obama asked the enthusiastic crowd from a balcony over the south lawn. "Happy Easter everybody. We are thrilled that all of you could come."

The theme of this year's egg roll is "Ready, Set, Go!" and that ties in with first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. The event features basketball, yoga, dancing, gardening and healthy eating activities.

"Today we have transformed the South Lawn into a playground," Mrs. Obama said. "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."

Several NFL players joined in the effort to encourage kids to be more active by leading them through football drills. The group included Derrick Dockery, Chris Horton and Casey Rabach of the Washington Redskins, Sam Koch and Matt Lawrence of the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington.

The healthy living theme carried over to the Storytime Stage, where Obama read "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss. The book's main character staunchly refuses to try eating green eggs and ham, but then decides they are delicious after finally agreeing to taste them.

Obama told the children seated around the first family that the story's moral is that you never know if you're going to like something until you give it a try.

"When your parents tell you to eat your broccoli, you don't know yet whether you're going to like it or not: you've got to try it." he said, with hearty agreement from Mrs. Obama, who shouted "just try it!"

Afterward the first lady read "Horton Hatched the Egg," also by Seuss.

The White House said 30,000 men, women and children from all 50 states will attend the Egg Roll throughout the day. To prepare, they have hard-boiled and dyed 14,500 eggs.

Other activities included an egg hunt, an arts and crafts workshop, and performances from pop star Justin Bieber and the cast of the television show "Glee."