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By Lalita Clozel, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Instead of chocolate and candy baskets, the hordes of children gathered Monday on the South Lawn for the White House’s Easter Egg Roll got an Eggtivity Zone and a Yoga Garden.

To mark the 136th annual Easter event, first lady Michelle Obama threw in some exercise stations and healthy eating tips along with the traditional fun and games, which included egg-rolling races and storytelling.

Speaking from the Truman balcony alongside President Barack Obama and the Easter Bunny, the first lady said this year’s theme, “Hop into Healthy, Swing into Shape,” was an “issue that is near and dear to my heart.”

“We want our kids to be the healthiest and the strongest they can be, so they can do well in school and live up to all of their God-given potential,” she said.

Donning flowery dresses, petticoats and sweater vests, toddlers and children visiting from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were largely oblivious to the celebrities around them. Among those in attendance were actor Jim Carrey, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and Miss America, Nina Davuluri.

One group of egg-rolling contestants was joined on the lawn by the president and his wife, who cheered the participants on from the sidelines.

The children then got to salute the president. Eight-year-old Elisabeth Golton of Weston, Mass., was among the lucky kids. “He was like getting high-fives from a lot of kids,” she said. “Then I high-fived him.”

The White House expected more than 30,000 visitors during the daylong festivities, which it has hosted since the 1870s.

Prior to Monday’s celebration, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals made a plea.

The week before the event, PETA released a video of three young girls demanding that the first lady end the traditional distribution of colored hard-boiled eggs.

“How many chickens have to spend their whole life in a cage to lay those eggs?” one of the girls asked. “Please, stop using real eggs.”

This year, the leftover eggs will be distributed as souvenirs outside the White House gates by Secret Service agents and staffers to reduce waste.

AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski

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