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White House Easter Roll: Eggstra Fun for Potter, Bieber Fans

5 years ago
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The children sitting cross-legged in front of J.K. Rowling were listening intently as she read from a book on Monday, but this was not just any book and not just any place. It was Rowling telling a tale from her first Harry Potter novel, "The Sorcerer's Stone," at the White House Easter Egg roll. (Or maybe they were transfixed by her shoes, stunning platforms with about four-inch heels and three straps.)

Those kids were among the lucky ones at the "roll," where the theme was about healthy eating and exercise, offshoots of First Lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive. Another story lady was Reese Witherspoon.

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

She named some other of the celebs who were there: "We've got our Washington Redskins here. . . . We have Olympians: Apolo Ohno; we've got Billie Jean King. In the center, we're going to have some dancing, some hula-hooping. We've got DJ Tony from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," who's going to do some stuff. And then, if that's not enough, you can go over to the music stage and just have some fun with Justin Bieber. You guys know Justin Bieber? You've heard of Justin Bieber? Well, he's here! And we have Sarah Bareilles -- one of my favorites," Mrs. Obama said, "as well as the cast of 'Glee.' "

No junk food at this fair; kids were handed bags with fruit and offered strawberry, banana or mango smoothies to drink. For a snack, children were helping to make a concoction of orange rinds with pickled mint, rolled in brown sugar.

Not far from the now-famous White House garden, freshly planted last week and fenced off, was a table where kids could do their own mini-planting, putting "Sesame Street" vegetable seeds into little cups. One could also learn about bees and honey or dissect green beans.

What folks didn't eat was not going to be wasted; there were garbage bins to compost the fruits and veggies. At one booth, manned by a Discovery Channel staffer, there was a food show-and-tell, but no samples: Sushi is an acquired taste.

The kids looked like they were having fun and their photo-snapping parents were getting keepsake souvenir shots.

The "roll" was a carnival of events taking place on a sunny, hot day on the South Lawn of the White House with some 30,000 invitees, not counting Bo, the Obama family dog, whom I spotted twice in the afternoon, hanging around the White House portico and then on a blue leash getting walked near some bushes not far from the Oval Office.

Over at the "Rock 'n' Egg Roll Stage," where teen heartthrob Justin Bieber sang, a cheer rolled over the South Lawn before he warbled a note. The gang from "Sesame Street" performed before him.

There was a lot going on at once, from face painting to hula hooping to shooting baskets on the White House basketball court, where the backboards carry the White House seal. Over at the "Sport Zone," the National Football League helped staff a mini football field with padded goal posts, and I saw Redskins player Will Robinson helping some kids score a touchdown.

The egg roll is a White House tradition dating back to 1878 and President Rutherford B. Hayes.

This was President Obama's second Egg Roll, and like last year, he assisted at the roll itself, as the Easter Bunny watched little kids nudge eggs across a finish line. One of the tots was Lillian Plouffe, the daughter of Obama's presidential campaign manager, David Plouffe. Lillian was born just after the 2008 election.

Before Rowling read from her book, the president and first lady took their turns at the "Storytime Stage." Obama read from Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" to about 25 kids. According to the pool report, daughter Sasha, 8, was in his seat but gave it up when her dad wanted to sit.

"I guess they figured I'm too old, and I gotta sit down," he said.

Obama told the kids it's not enough to work out, "you've got to exercise your brain just like you exercise your body." He called "Green Eggs and Ham" one of the classics. "I'm going to try to do the best rendition ever of 'Green Eggs and Ham.' "

A point of the book, Obama said, is to eat your vegetables. "When your parents tell you to eat your broccoli, you don't know whether you're going to like them or not. You've got to try it," he said. "When your parents tell you to eat your peas, eat your peas."

After the president left to shoot some hoops at the basketball court, Mrs. Obama and the First Daughters stayed behind to do a reading of another Dr. Seuss classic, "Horton Hatches the Egg" -- as in Easter Egg Roll.
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