by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Donald and Melania Trump have ruined Easter!
That's the conclusion of a New York Times article published April 11.
According to the Times, the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll - a Washington fixture for nearly 140 years - will be much smaller this year and will lack some of the special features that have enlivened the event in the past.
For example, only 20,000 people are expected to attend the event this year, down from the 37,000 who came to the final Obama-era Easter party in 2016. Only 500 people will staff the Trump event, half of the 2016 number.
Only 40,000 hand-crafted wooden Easter eggs will be distributed as souvenirs this year, with 18,000 to be given away and the rest available for sale. Some 85,000 of the special eggs were handed out in 2016.
Military bands will provide musical accompaniment, rather than the A-list entertainers like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Idina Menzel, and Silentó who have performed at the event in the past.
And, in contrast to Obama-era Easter events, which featured a coterie of Sesame Street characters, PBS was able to provide only one costumed character this year.
The reason for the scaled-back Easter party was not economy or a commitment to smaller government. It was, the Times says, simple incompetence.
The Trumps - and particularly Melania, since the Easter Egg Roll is usually organized by the First Lady - just didn't get their act together in time.
'You don't understand what a beast this thing is to plan until you go and plan your first one,' said Ellie Schafer, who organized Easter Egg Rolls for the Obamas as the director of the White House Visitors Office from 2009 to 2016.
'Every administration tries to put its own stamp on it, but the stakes are high because it's such a Washington tradition, and people just love it and have very strong feelings about it.'
'It's the single most high-profile event that takes place at the White House each year, and the White House and the First Lady are judged on how well they put it on,' agreed Melinda Bates, who organized eight years of Easter Egg Rolls as director of the White House Visitors Office under President Bill Clinton.
'I'm really concerned for the Trump people, because they have failed to fill some really vital posts, and this thing is all hands on deck.'
According to the Times, the Trumps did not even begin planning the event until last month, by which time it was too late to order hand-made eggs, ask PBS for costumed characters, and book entertainment.
Wells Wood and Finishing, the company that supplies the special eggs for the event, even tried to warn the Trumps that time was running out. But Melania continues to live in New York, not at the White House, and she has not selected a staff to help her with ceremonial duties. Donald, on the other hand, was lurching from crisis to crisis with no time to devote to party-planning.
Stephanie Grisham, who just started as Melania's communications director on April 10, originally denied that the Easter Egg Roll was being scaled back year.
But by April 11 she acknowledged that attendance would be 'a bit less' than in the past - because, she said, former officials told her that 'the event had become so large that many children were not able to enjoy the planned activities.'
'Our team has been working very hard to make this year's event a success,' Ms. Grisham said. 'I am confident that the success of this year's Easter Egg Roll will speak for itself.'
The White House Easter Egg Roll was introduced by Rutherford Hayes in 1878. Hayes, a teetotaler, and his wife, known as 'Lemonade Lucy,' were eager to host family-oriented events at the White House - in contrast to his hard-drinking predecessor, Ulysses S. Grant.
The event outlasted the one-term Hayes administration, growing to become a Washington tradition.
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