The White House’s annual Easter Egg Roll can trace its origins back First Lady Dolley Madison, who, in the early 1800s, invited local children to an egg-rolling event on the grounds of the Capitol Building. The tradition continued through 1876, with kids returning year after year to race their hard-boiled eggs down Capitol Hill.
Congress, however, was growing weary of children running amok outside their offices, so they voted to ban the children from using their grasses “as play-grounds or otherwise.”
Then, in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes opened up the White House gates and invited local children to continue their egg-based activities on the lawn. The event was a hit and the tradition has continued ever since, with each new presidential administration putting its own spin on the festivities.
Despite a few well-publicized hiccups leading up to the 2017 ceremony — namely, that the Trump administration waited until the last minute to order commemorative wooden eggs, and that the event is expected to draw fewer attendees than in years past — the White House insists they’re ready to roll.
Jeff Hardin, chairman of the American Egg Board (the country’s largest egg industry marketing organization), can vouch for those claims. The AEB has been involved, in one way or another, with the annual event since the organization’s inception in 1977, and as Hardin tells Fox News, he’s had “nothing but a great experience” preparing for the Egg Roll with the current White House staff.
It’s no small job, either. As Hardin explains, this year’s festivities will include all-new events, exhibits and photo-ops, as well as 15,000 “Egg Pops” to be distributed among hungry kids and their families on the South Lawn.
Hardin took Fox News inside the annual tradition to give us a better feel for the scope of the ceremony.
Fox News: What exactly happens at the Easter Egg Roll?
Jeff Hardin: Today, children race to the finish line with a dyed egg, provided by America’s egg farmers, held in a spoon. Hundreds of races will take place throughout the day on Monday, literally in the White House’s backyard.
How many people are expected at this year’s event?
An estimated 30,000-plus Americans from across the country will celebrate the Incredible Edible Egg [this figure was based on the number of eggs the AEB was instructed to provide] alongside America’s egg farmers on Monday, April 17.
What steps does the AEB take to prepare for the event? How many eggs do they prepare?
We’ll donate more than 30,000 real hard-boiled eggs, half of which arrive dyed and ready for egg rolling, hunting and decorating. The rest will be served as EggPops — a portable, nutritious hard-boiled egg on a stick — to everyone on the South Lawn.
What other events are planned for this year’s event?
Those in attendance will also meet America’s Egg Farmers throughout the whimsical “An Egg’s Journey from Farm to Table Eggsperience.” At this exhibit, attendees will find photo cut-outs that showcase the hen house, processing and delivery; and a play kitchen where children can move eggs from the fridge to the stove to their breakfast, lunch and dinner plates.
Eggy, the popular Incredible Egg character, will also be on hand for photos.
What’s new at this year’s White House Easter Egg Roll?
This year, an interactive display with … realistic imitation hens (called Hollywood Hens) will drive even more engagement and help children learn about corn, the hens’ primary food. New photo opportunities will include egg-themed props and signs.
Tell us about the ceremonial egg the AEB is presenting to the First Lady.
During the event, and with the American Egg Board’s CEO and President Anne L. Alonzo, I’ll present the 40th Commemorative Egg. This year’s Commemorative Egg is an egg that artist Linda Gaus Asbell of Denton, Texas, carved, painted and then decorated with red, white, blue and gold Swarovski crystal.
As Chairman of the American Egg Board, I’m honored to present the Commemorative Egg and thrilled to present such a lovely piece of artwork to our First Family, especially as the artist is from my home state. This entire event highlights the role that eggs play in our country’s time-honored traditions.
How is the new administration handling the event? Are they bringing any new touches or traditions?
We’ve had nothing but a great experience in working with the White House to make this as incredible as years past. As you can imagine, hosting an event of this size and scale in the White House’s backyard takes a lot of hard work, so we appreciate their partnership in making it a fun one for attendees.
Why do you think the Easter Egg Roll is such a hit with the public?
This is such a time-honored tradition that generations of families have had a chance to be a part of. It’s a wonderful day of fun and celebration for children and adults alike.
It has been an honor to support this event for the last 40 years — and many more to come.
This interview has been edited for length.