Amid a sea of umbrellas, hundreds of children in brightly colored raincoats rolled Easter eggs Monday on the soggy South Lawn of the White House in a rainy version of the annual celebration that dates to the 19th century.

Standing in for President Bush, who was traveling to Washington from his Texas ranch, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings (search) and Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt (search) co-hosted the event, which was closed four hours early because of the weather.

Besides the egg roll — in which children use big spoons to push colored eggs through the grass in a race — there was face painting, music, magicians and storytelling by various authors and Bush administration officials. People dressed up as storybook characters, including an Easter bunny and "Patchy Panda," strolled around the South Lawn.

The activities were open to the public again this year, and about 16,000 tickets were distributed. Two years ago the event was closed to the public and limited to only about 12,000 people — troops involved in the Iraq war and their children.

There were 7,200 dyed eggs for the egg roll, another 4,000 for the egg hunt, and an additional 4,000 were ready for children to dye on the Lawn.

The White House egg roll has been a tradition since the mid-19th century. It took place on the Capitol grounds until 1878, when it was moved to the White House.