| White House changes Easter Egg Roll admit process; LGBT families 'moved from front of the line'
After waiting outside overnight to be among the first to enter this year's White House Easter Egg Roll, families in line were surprised to learn that the White House had changed the ticketing policy for the annual event, PageOneQ has learned.
The unannounced change means that the families who waited in line the longest, in one case for twenty-four hours, will not be among the visitors at the event's opening ceremonies. The first families in line, who were not part of the LGBT family group, received tickets with an 11:00am entrance time, two hours later than the opening time listed in the White House press release.
Various media reports have publicized participation of lesbian and gay families, including a piece in the New York Times, which ran on April 10th, and media representatives were interviewing families in the line about the small swirl of controversy created by the decision of LGBT families to participate in the annual event. This morning, cameras from approximately half a dozen television stations, including CNN, were on the Ellipse, interviewing families about the decision of LGBT parents to participate.
In a telephone call and email exchange with PageOneQ earlier today, Deputy White House Dana Perino, the Deputy White House Press Secretary told PageOneQ that, "[T]he number of tickets are the same as every year, and that the large group we invited this year is youth volunteers ... and they are coming in the morning. We invite a group like that every year, for instance one or two years ago it was military families. In order to accomodate [sic] all of the people who want to come to the easter egg roll, we stagger the times to ensure maximum enjoyment for everyone."
One ticket recipient who was approximately fifty people behind the Family Pride Coalition, told PageOneQ that he was "upset, very upset, that they would change the policy to make those of us who spent the night be the last ones to get into the event." When asked his name, the man said that, "Because my brother works for the State Department, I'd rather keep my name out of the article."
The Family Pride group, which was located approximately 150 people from the start of the line, received tickets with entry times of 11:30am and later.
Some waiting in line were not upset with the ticketing change. "This means we get to sleep at the hotel later," one teenager was heard saying. Other participants were not as happy. In addition to the first group in line, others who were near the front of the line expressed disappointment over their entry times. "We thought we would wait in line so we could go to the ceremony," said one parent.
When asked about the ticket time issue, Jennifer Chrisler, Family Pride Coalition's Executive Director stayed out of the controversy by telling PageOneQ that, "We're just so happy to be participating in this national event, and we are thrilled to be a part of this national tradition."
The egg roll takes place Monday morning on the White House grounds.
Update: PageOneQ has receive a follow-up e-mail from the White House Deputy Press Secretary. In PageOneQ's original note, we inquired:
Can you tell me why in the past those that waited in line overnight received tickets to the early part of the program? ...[W]hy the policy this year bumped the families who waited in line the longest. as apposed to other years when special guests must have been integrated with the earlier ticket holders?
Here's additional comment, but don't think I'll have anything more:
PageOneQ wrote back to ask Perino:
This year, the President and Mrs. Bush invited a special group of children who volunteer from organizations like 4-H, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Campfire USA, Citizen Corps, Learn & Serve, Little Hands Big Hearts, YMCA and Youth Service America. These youth volunteer were invited to attend during the morning hours of the event.
The number of public tickets is the same as in years past and has not changed as a result of this group's participation. Although the public tickets begin with times later in the morning, the event will have the same activities throughout the day for everyone to enjoy.
Inviting special groups to the event has become an annual tradition. Mrs. Bush invited mentoring youth in 2005, youth affiliated with the National Childhood Cancer Foundation in 2004, and the event was completely closed to only military families in 2003. The number of available public tickets has remained the same in recent years, including this year.
There is one question that is still unanswered.
In years past, with the exact same arrangement of invited guests, those that spent all night outside for tickets were given tickets to the event's opening times. When was the decision made, and by whom, to exclude those families from the opening ceremonies? This is the first time that no early tickets were distributed to those that waited the longest. Do you know why?
"The early morning tickets were designated this year for the youth voulunteers[sic]."
Originally published on Saturday April 15, 2006.