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First family takes part in White House Easter Egg Roll

U.S. President Barack Obama greets the parents of children participating in the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White
U.S. President Barack Obama greets the parents of children participating in the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White

By Gabriel Debenedetti

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sometimes being president of the United States isn't just about being in command. There is also the rare opportunity to shed the heavy concerns - and the necktie - and spend time with citizens focused more on food and fun than power and politics.

Barack Obama escaped briefly from North Korean tensions and Capitol Hill battles to spend time with the Easter Bunny and 30,000 visitors on the south lawn of the White House for the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll on Monday morning.

The first family walked amid the pastel-clad crowd, taking part in the egg rolling, sports, cooking stations and story telling, as part of the tradition, which dates back to President Rutherford B. Hayes.

"You guys brought the great weather. It was a little shaky this morning, but all of you did a great job sending a message upstairs, and now we've got beautiful weather," the president told the visitors at the beginning of the event.

Michelle Obama then took over in welcoming the crowd, encouraging the children in the audience to "eat your vegetables, OK?"

She said the event was held "in celebration of nutrition and health and activity."

The First Lady regularly advocates healthy eating and fitness, and continued to do so with the crowds of visitors and performers in costume.

Among the visitors were families from Newtown, Connecticut, the site of a December school shooting that left 27 people including 20 young children dead.

The president went to the egg rolling station before heading to play basketball. At the basketball court, he made just two of 22 shots. He was joined by members of the National Basketball Association's Washington Wizards.

Michelle Obama spent part of the morning with NBC weather forecaster Al Roker and chef Anne Burrell at a cooking station, where they prepared pasta.

She then met up with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, and the first family's dog, Bo, for a reading of two children's books, including "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

The White House hosted celebrities in addition to the Wizards players, including NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and singer Jordin Sparks.

(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Scott Malone, Jackie Frank and Steve Orlofsky)

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