WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump dressed up as himself, complete with his trademark red tie, for his first Halloween in the White House.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump greeted some of the 6,000 children and adults who were invited for trick-or-treating at the White House on Halloween eve. Children from more than 20 schools in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia attended the festivities on the South Lawn, along with military families and members of unspecified community organizations.
Spooky music played over loudspeakers. Machines cranked out fog. Pumpkins carved with the likenesses of past presidents decorated the south entrance of the White House. Black spiders hung from webs spun between the portico’s columns. A sign over an awning proclaimed “Halloween at the White House 2017.”
Trump and the first lady, who wore a calf-length coat in the crisp air, welcomed dinosaurs, athletes, police officers, skeletons and more. Trick-or-treaters took home individual gift bags containing presidential M&Ms, a home-baked cookie and other candies.
Trump and his wife chatted with their guests, with the president at times going in for a high-five or posing for photos, including with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her family, as well as a skeleton accompanied by a kid sporting one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” caps. Mrs. Trump wished the trick-or-treaters “Happy Halloween.”
Several members of the Cabinet came out for the fun, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, dressed as Ms. Frizzle from “The Magic School Bus,” and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, sporting a make-believe knife through the head.
The president held a brief, pre-Halloween celebration in the Oval Office last Friday with the children of White House reporters. He congratulated the journalists for doing a good job raising children, if not for their coverage of his presidency, and handed out small boxes of White House Hershey’s Kisses.
“I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful kids. How the media did this, I don’t know,” Trump exclaimed as the youngsters crowded around his historic desk.
Halloween has been celebrated at the White House since the mid-20th century, with each administration putting its spin on the holiday, according to the White House Historical Association.
First lady Mamie Eisenhower decorated the White House for Halloween for the first time. She invited staff members’ wives to an Oct. 30, 1958, lunch in the State Dining Room, which had been decorated with hanging skeletons and jack-o’-lanterns. Tables were adorned with miniature witches on broomsticks.
Large events have been held on the White House grounds or in staterooms since the administration of Richard M. Nixon. In 1969, 250 local children attended a White House Halloween party where the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance was converted into the mouth of a 17-foot-high pumpkin. The Nixons also held parties in 1971 and 1972.
George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush threw a party for 600 schoolchildren on the South Lawn in 1989, his first year in office.
Bill and Hillary Clinton held yearly Halloween costume parties for friends and White House staff, often combining them with birthday celebrations for the first lady, who was born on Oct. 26. One of their most memorable appearances came when they attended a 1993 White House Halloween party dressed as President James Madison and first lady Dolley Madison.
Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed children from local schools and military families every year he was in office, except 2012, when Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast. They handed out goodie bags with treats similar to Trump’s. Except the Obamas included dried fruit — a nod to Mrs. Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity.