White House Easter Egg Roll April 05 2012, 0 Comments

I borrowed this article from "The President's Own" United States Marine Band's Notes, from April 2010. Click here to sign up for Notes, the weekly e-newsletter by "The President's Own." Written By: Staff Sergeant Brian Rust of "The President's Own" United States Marine Band John Philip Sousa stood on a stand, Directing the music of the Marine Band. Their red coats were brilliant; their instruments shone, Every trumpet and flute and golden trombone. Hand-clapping, toe-tapping, music fast and slow, People laughing, children dancing—moving to and fro. These lines, taken from the book The White House Easter Egg Roll by C. L. Arbelbide, colorfully describe the Marine Band’s inaugural performance of the annual Easter Monday event on the White House lawn. The White House Easter Egg Roll, which draws flocks of children and their families onto the South Lawn of the White House for egg rolling and other games, has become a yearly tradition that dates back to 1878; however, it wasn’t until 1889 that President Benjamin Harrison first invited John Philip Sousa and the Marine Band to perform during the celebration. “It is a thrill to be a part of the time-honored practice of rolling Easter eggs on the White House South Lawn on Easter Monday,” said Marine Band historian Master Gunnery Sergeant Michael Ressler. “It has become a great tradition for the Marine Band and we look forward to being a part of the festivities every year.” Egg rolling on the Monday after Easter had long been a custom in Washington. Sometime after the end of the Civil War, egg rolling became particularly popular on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol because the steep terraces on the West Front made perfect hills for the colored eggs to roll down. As the Easter activities on the Capitol grounds continued year after year, several congressmen complained of the noisy children running about, the eggshells littering the grounds,  and, as was reported by the Evening Star, “the wanton destruction of the grass on the terraces of the park.” After the Egg Roll of 1876, frustrated congressmen introduced a bill that was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant banning egg rollers from the Capitol grounds to “protect the public property, turf and grass from destruction or injury”  (Evening Star, April 20, 1878). Following a rained-out Easter Monday in 1877, a small notice in the newspaper on the Saturday before Easter in 1878 mentioned the new law banning egg rollers from the Capitol grounds that year. Capitol Hill police would be onsite to enforce the law and turn away any children who showed up. On that same Saturday, as President Rutherford B. Hayes took his daily walk, a number of egg rollers approached him and asked about the possibility of rolling eggs Easter Monday on the South Lawn of the White House. President Hayes, unfamiliar with the egg rolling tradition, consulted with his staff about the option and issued an order that any children who came to the White House on Easter Monday would be allowed to roll eggs on the South Lawn. With the Capitol grounds off limits, several children made their way to the Executive Mansion. The Egg Roll continued on the White House grounds in the years that followed, its popularity growing each year. In 1928, 40 years after the Marine Band’s first appearance at the event, John Philip Sousa wrote a special piece in honor of the annual occasion titled “Easter Monday on the White House Lawn.” Since 1889, the Marine Band has provided the soundtrack for this special celebration entertaining thousands of children as they play games and roll eggs on a spring day at the White House. “It’s a lot of fun seeing the schoolchildren enjoying the camaraderie and games as they experience the day in such a historic setting,” said clarinetist Master Gunnery Sergeant Charles Willett. “I always look forward to when we play Irving Berlin’s ‘Easter Parade,’ signaling the arrival of the President and First Lady. That’s a very exciting moment for all in attendance.” In addition to the Marine Band’s performances at the annual event, Presidents have traditionally invited celebrity performers and popular children’s characters, including a larger than life-size Easter bunny. The White House Easter Egg Roll has grown tremendously since its inception in 1878, yet its purpose has remained the same: to allow children the opportunity to play in “America’s most famous backyard.” In fact, in order to attend the egg roll, it’s the adults who must be accompanied by children! For details regarding the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll visit www.whitehouse.gov/eastereggroll.