President Obama's fatherly side came out today as more than 30,000 excited kids packed the South Lawn for the White House Easter Egg Roll, an annual rite of spring that dates back to 1878.
But although festivities were focused on children, there was also a political aspect to the event.
About 110 same-sex families with kids were expressly invited today through gay and lesbian organizations. While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents first attended the roll in 2006, this is the first time, the Family Equality Council says, the White House specifically encouraged them to participate in this tradition.
"I'm so proud to be here for my moms today to know that we're treated equally," said one mother attending the event.
Today's roll got off to a slightly shaky start, when the microphone stopped working as Obama stepped up to make his welcome speech. After a few awkward and funny moments -- the president tried to speak into the Easter bunny's ear -- Obama's daughter Malia tested the mike and declared for all to hear: "is it on? Oh, yea."
"Hello everybody, that's Malia, our technical adviser," Obama joked.
But pretty soon the good times were rolling.
"This is one of the greatest White House traditions, because it reminds us that it is the people's house," a casually dressed Obama said from the balcony of the Truman Library. His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, their two children, his mother-in-law Marian Robinson, and the Easter Bunny accompanied him. "Seeing so many children out here having a great time just fills Michelle and myself and the entire family with a whole lot of joy."
This year's theme, "Let's Go Play," emphasized health and fitness, and the first lady encouraged the young visitors to let loose.
"Our goal today is just to have fun," she said. "We want everybody to think about moving their bodies."
The president spent some time with the children, helping one girl roll her egg through the finish line, shooting hoops and reading about imaginary beasts from "Where the Wild Things Are" -- complete with sound affects and a little acting, making one little kid cry.
"These wild things can be a little scary," Obama said with a smile.
Later, Obama mused about the roll at an event at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"It was a spectacular, spectacular outing," he said. "All the kids out there were having fun. It reminds us why we do the work we do."
More than 30,000 people from 45 states and the District of Columbia took part in the festivities on the South Lawn, including families from as far away as Hawaii, Alaska, and California.
"We wanted to do something from the kids' perspective," White House social secretary Desiree Rogers said on ABC's "Good Morning America. "We had a young child artist draw the program and we had the National Children's Museum work with us on all of this. We did a mini focus group with kids... So that's why we're so proud to be able to present today."
In the past, families could score coveted tickets by waiting in line for hours on the morning of the event. Tickets were available on a first come, first serve basis. For the first time, tickets were made available online so families from across the nation could have the opportunity to attend.