2,000 kids knocking on White House door

WASHINGTON (AP) - October 31, 2009

This year it's the big gated place on Pennsylvania Avenue, No. 1600. Welcome to the White House, boys and girls.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama awaited more than 2,000 children Saturday night from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The Obamas themselves were to spend time handing out goodies to the trick-or-treaters on the most famous front porch in America, the North Portico.

What do you get for Halloween at the White House?

Not bad, kids: A box of White House M&Ms with the president's signature imprinted on it, a sweet dough butter cookie made by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses, a National Park Foundation Ranger activity book, and a serving of dried fruit mix made up of cherries, apricots, pears, apples and papayas.

By early afternoon, a big, stuffed, black spider was dangling in a web of string from the top of the portico, and pumpkins had sprouted up around the columns. The White House will be lit orange for the occassion, and three giants pumpkins - about 1,000 pounds each - will be on the grounds.

The loot is just part of the treat for the kids, ages 6 to 14. The White House said that set to roam the North Lawn were fairies, bubble makers, wandering trees, Star Wars characters, theater actors and artists and a "skeleton band."

The president and the first lady weren't planning to wear costumes. But don't rule out the chance that some youngsters might dress up as the Obamas.

Later, in the East Room, the first couple were to be joined by Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, at a Halloween reception for military families and for the moms and dads who work at the White House, along with their kids. The visiting children were chosen, with help from the Education Department, from schools in the capital and surrounding suburbs.

It's the first White House Halloween for the Obamas' daughters, 8-year-old Sasha and 11-year-old Malia.

Over the years, the winter holidays have been the ones to get the full treatment at the White House, with Christmas trees and tinsel all around.

The Obamas are not the first, though, to show Halloween spirit. President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush hosted 500 children on Halloween in 1989, loading them up with fun loot but also teaching them about the dangers of drugs. The kids came decked out in costumes; some Secret Service agents came dressed as clowns.

In the Clintons' first year in the White House, the Great Pumpkin returned. A huge orange jack-o'-lantern was formed around the front entrance to the White House, with the front door to the mansion serving as the middle tooth. The first couple's daughter, Chelsea, was 13 at the time and the house was stuffed with pumpkins.

During the Nixon administration, first daughter Tricia hosted parties for underprivileged children, according to the White House Historical Association. And plenty of other first families got festive for Halloween.

No telling what kind of goblins might pop up this year, although stories of ghosts - especially Abraham Lincoln's - are woven into White House history.


On the Net:

White House Historical Association on Halloween: http://tinyurl.com/ydeyhmw

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