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White House Easter egg roll draws a huge crowd after storm-delayed start

White House Easter Egg Roll President Joe Biden, right, greets children at the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House Easter Egg Roll President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, wave from the Blue Room Balcony toward The White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2024. A huge crowd descended on the White House lawn for the start of this year's Easter egg roll, after the event was delayed by thunder and lightning for about 90 minutes. More than 40,000 people, 10,000 more than last year, were expected to participate in Monday's event despite light rain. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
White House Easter Egg Roll First lady Jill Biden, center, participates in the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House Easter Egg Roll President Joe Biden, right, greets children at the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House Easter Egg Roll The White House Easter Egg Roll begins on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2024. Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the Easter egg roll at the White House for 90 minutes on Monday, but the event eventually kicked off under gray skies and internment rain. More than 40,000 people, 10,000 more than last year, were expected to participate in the event. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
White House Easter Egg Roll Children participate in the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House Easter Egg Roll The White House Easter Egg Roll begins on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2024. Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the Easter egg roll at the White House for 90 minutes on Monday, but the event eventually kicked off under gray skies and internment rain. More than 40,000 people, 10,000 more than last year, were expected to participate in the event. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
White House Easter Egg Roll President Joe Biden looks out toward The White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2024, from the Blue Room Balcony. A huge crowd descended on the White House lawn for the start of this year's Easter egg roll, after the event was delayed by thunder and lightning for about 90 minutes. More than 40,000 people, 10,000 more than last year, were expected to participate in Monday's event despite light rain. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
White House Easter Egg Roll Members of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps give a musical demonstration during the White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
White House Easter Egg Roll The White House Easter Egg Roll is set to begin on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 1, 2024. Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the Easter egg roll at the White House for 90 minutes on Monday, but the event eventually kicked off under gray skies and internment rain. More than 40,000 people, 10,000 more than last year, were expected to participate in the event. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Thunder and lightning delayed the start of the annual at the White House on Monday, but the event eventually rolled ahead under gray skies with a large crowd including many youngsters wearing ponchos or colorful jackets against intermittent rain.

More than 40,000 people — 10,000 more than last year — were expected to attend, with children attempting to coax colorfully dyed hard-boiled eggs across the lawn to a finish line, among other “egg-tivities.” This year’s theme was “EGG-ucation,” and led by , a teacher for more than 30 years.

“Easter reminds us of the power of hope and renewal, and sacrifice and resurrection,” President Joe Biden told attendees, speaking from the White House balcony, where he was flanked by two large Easter bunnies, one wearing sunglasses fashioned like his trademark Ray-Bans. “But mainly love and grace towards one another.”

Biden said it’s a time to “cherish the blessings, the possibilities that we have as Americans.”

“That’s what I see in our country. We’re a great nation because we’re a good people,” he said. “Our values are solid.”

The president, accompanied by the first lady, then went down to the lawn, bending down to help a few youngsters with their eggs. He blew a whistle to officially start the roll — one of the oldest White House traditions .

Participants included thousands of military and veteran families, their caregivers and survivors. Members of the general public claimed tickets through an online lottery. All were being admitted in nine waves until the evening.

A large schoolhouse erected on the South Lawn offered kids activities in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM — including making circuit-breakers, simulating a fossil dig and learning about next week’s solar eclipse. Youngsters also wrote notes to U.S. troops and first responders with Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization.

The American Egg Board donated 64,000 eggs to the White House for the event — 40,000 for egg rolling and 24,00 for decorating and other uses.

“I’m a teacher so I love any time when we can turn the White House into a classroom,” the first lady said, noting that the South Lawn had been turned into a “learning playground and school community.”

After blowing a whistle to help with a few egg roll games, Jill Biden went to the garden outside the East Wing and read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” to a group.

The first couple also gave a brief interview Monday to NBC’s “Today” and said Easter Sunday for them featured putting dollar bills in plastic easter eggs and holding a hunt with their grandchildren. “We’re still missing one,” joked the first lady.

The Democratic president drew criticism from top conservatives and the campaign of former President Donald Trump, a Republican who is running to reclaim the White House, by proclaiming March 31 — the same day as Easter — as ″

Asked about the criticism as he was leaving the lawn, Biden said his critics were ”thoroughly uninformed” and that he did not arrange for Easter and transgender recognition to fall on the same day.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the president’s chief spokesperson, was more direct and slammed as “cruel, hateful and dishonest” what she said was being pushed “to divide us.”

At her daily press briefing, Jean-Pierre said that “folks who understand the calendar and how it works” know that the date for Easter changes every year and that this year it coincided with Transgender Day of Visibility.

Separately, Biden was asked in the NBC News interview about his final campaign as he seeks a second term. He said he was optimistic and thinks “people are so tired of the negativity” they hear from the other side that he will be reelected.

“I think people are going to surprise people again,” Biden said.

The White House Easter Egg Roll, one of its oldest traditions, Rutherford B. Hayes, who opened the White House lawn to children after they were kicked off the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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