The White House Easter Egg Roll, the annual spring event organized by the first lady’s office, has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The news was announced Friday by Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for first lady Jill Biden, who urged Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and promised the administration of President Joe Biden will send out thousands of wooden commemorative eggs to vaccination sites and local hospitals.
“Due to COVID-19 this year, unfortunately the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House will not take place,” LaRosa said in a statement to USA TODAY. “The Bidens hope to continue this tradition in 2022. The holiday falls on April 4 this year; the event is usually held the next day.
“The White House plans to send out thousands of the 2021 commemorative Easter Egg Roll eggs in the coming days to vaccination sites and local hospitals. We urge everyone this Easter to continue wearing masks, engage in social distancing and get the vaccine when it is your turn.”
A hint that the event was off came in an email earlier Friday from the White House Historical Association proclaiming the availability of “a comprehensive offering of online events and activities to celebrate the springtime tradition of the White House Egg Roll.”
The association’s annual White House Easter Eggs are available for pre-sale; this year they feature First Dogs Major and Champ. The colorful wooden eggs range in price from $8.50 for one with a bunny wearing a face mask to $14.95 for one with the two German shepherds belonging to the Bidens.
The Easter Egg Roll extravaganza, hosted by the president and first lady, typically attracts thousands of kids and their parents. It has been held nearly every year since 1878, and usually takes place in April on the South Lawn.
The main event is the spectacle of children rolling hard-boiled eggs across the lawn, and often someone dressed as a giant Easter bunny hops around.
Last year, former first lady Melania Trump reluctantly canceled the egg roll in March “out of an abundance of caution” due to the pandemic. “I deeply regret this cancellation, but we need to make difficult decisions in the short-term to ensure a healthy country for the long-term,” Trump said in a statement at the time.
This year, the historical association is ready with a variety of online activities as a substitute, including The Virtual White House Easter scavenger hunt, which uses a new 360-degree interactive virtual tour of the White House to challenge players to find ten “fun facts” about the history of the Easter Egg Roll placed throughout the virtual Executive Mansion.
A “fill-in-the-blank” educational worksheet can be completed when all the fun facts are located, and completed worksheets can be submitted for a chance to win one of five commemorative 2021 wooden egg sets, which normally sell for $34.95 each.
Other activities online include Egg Roll Bingo; a printable coloring page featuring a 2001 painting depicting John Phillip Sousa conducting the U.S. Marine Band at the 1889 Easter Egg Roll; a design-your-own egg set; a reading list of books about the White House; and an Easter Egg Roll digital jigsaw puzzle with an image of the South Lawn at the 1982 egg roll.