By Betsy Klein, CNN
The plans are hatched, the wooden spoons are purchased, and 50,000 hard-boiled eggs have been cooked and transported to Washington in a refrigerated truck.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are taking their first chance at the centuries-old Easter tradition on Monday, which will mark the White House’s 142nd Easter egg roll after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme for the event, according to the first lady’s office, is “EGGucation,” with the South Lawn being “transformed into a school community” for 30,000 visitors, including military families from the USS Delaware.
The American Egg Board is donating 90,000 eggs to the event as part of its longstanding partnership with the White House, Emily Metz, president and CEO of the egg board, told CNN. This includes approximately 50,000 hard-boiled eggs which will be used for spring roll races with wooden spoons, egg hunts, dyeing and decorating. These eggs were hard-boiled, dyed and transported from North Carolina to Washington in a refrigerated truck by John Watson of Braswell Family Farms, where they will be stored over the weekend ahead of Monday’s festivities.
An additional 40,000 eggs were donated to be used as food items for guests, Metz said.
The Memorial Egg
The American Egg Board will also present its annual memorial egg to the first lady, part of a 45-year tradition beginning with the Carter administration. Artist Russ Hagen, a member of the International Egg Art Guild, was selected to paint the 2021 and 2022 Memorial Eggs, a months-long endeavor that included a design matching the “EGGucation” theme created by Mary O’Reilly and the inside of a real chicken egg blown through a special process, leaving the shell intact, before decorating can begin.
This year, the 45 eggs that have been presented to First Ladies over the years are displayed together for the first time in a special “egg colonnade” in the East Wing of the White House for visitors to view during of visits.
Getting all of these extremely delicate painted eggs to the White House for the exhibit was a challenge. The safest way to transport a painted egg, Metz told CNN, is to wrap it “very gently” in a clean diaper. The layered eggs are then airlifted with an egg board member to Washington. Most of the 45 eggs are stored at the American Egg Board headquarters in Chicago, but some of them belong to presidential libraries or the White House Historical Association. Two of the 45 eggs could not be found and were reproduced for the exhibition.
Biden will be presented with the 2022 egg on Monday, awaiting his arrival intact. There’s a “rescue egg” just in case, Metz said, “but the point is to be very, very careful.”
A brief history of the Egg Roll
The tradition of egg rolling began in the 1870s on the grounds of the United States Capitol. After a particularly rotten 1876 roll in which eyewitness John C. Rathbone observed “the wanton destruction of the grass on the park terraces”, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation to protect the Capitol grounds, which forbade the rolling of eggs, according to the National Archives.
But in 1878, a more egg-friendly president, Rutherford B. Hayes, allowed children to roll their eggs on the South Lawn of the White House.
According to an article in the evening edition of the Evening Star, according to the National Archives, the children were quite pleased with their new headquarters: “Chased from the Capitol, the children advanced onto the grounds of the White House today. hui and rolled eggs on the terraces at the back of the mansion and played among the shrubs at their leisure.
The tradition continues in the form of a collaboration between the White House, the White House Historical Association and the National Park Service.
Florence Harding dyed the eggs herself in 1921, The Washington Post reported at the time.
In 1927, the Post reported that Grace Coolidge brought her pet raccoon, Rebecca, to the field on a leash, much to Rebecca’s chagrin.
“The crush was too much for Rebecca and she clearly showed her displeasure. But the first lady was not so easily discouraged. She carried the animal inside and returned to the delight of the crowd,” the report said.
Eleanor Roosevelt oversaw the egg roll during her husband’s four terms, including in 1937, when more than 50,000 children attended. Cold weather was behind the low turnout in 1940, when just under 5,500 children attended, the Syracuse Herald-Journal reported.
Under the Obama administration, first lady Michelle Obama used the egg roll to promote her “Let’s Move” initiative, and the star-studded lineup included performances by Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. Beyoncé and Jay-Z were among the participants in 2016. The Trump administration saw a return to the basics of the Egg Roll, with activity stations, egg and cookie decorations, and costumed characters.
To this day, the Egg Roll remains one of the only times of the year the White House South Lawn is open to the public — with tickets — to enjoy.
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