WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, doled out Halloween candy Monday to trick-or-treaters dressed up as everything from Spider-Man to a flamingo to a monk to a zombie founding father at a soggy celebration on the south side of the White House.
It was the Bidens' first time welcoming trick-or-treaters as president and first lady. They were in Europe for Halloween last year, their first in the White House. They had the Pennsylvania Avenue side of the executive mansion lit up in orange for the spooky holiday.
Despite rainfall Monday, some 5,000 guests — children and their adult chaperones — were expected to stream through the event, where Biden and his wife handed out treats as part of this year's “Trick-or-Treating in the President and First Lady’s Neighborhood."
The invitation list included children of local firefighters, nurses, police officers and National Guard members invited through local community groups, labor unions and other organizations, the White House said. Children of administration officials joined the group as well.
The president wore a navy raincoat and baseball cap; the first lady was dressed in butterfly wings and a purple wig. The treats, which included chocolate kisses and candy bars, were provided by the National Confectioners Association.
In past years, children have received little boxes of presidential M&Ms or White House-baked cookies. Michelle Obama added dried fruit in her quest to help children eat more good-for-you foods.
Several Cabinet departments and agencies also participated Monday, including the Education and Transportation departments, along with NASA, the U.S. Secret Service, the Peace Corps, the White House Fire Brigade and the White House Military Office.
Halloween has been celebrated at the White House since the mid-20th century, according to the White House Historical Association, a private, nonprofit organization.
Mamie Eisenhower decorated the White House for Halloween for the first time in 1958. Photographs of costumed children in the Oval Office — President John F. Kennedy's kids Caroline and John Jr. — emerged during that administration.
Since then, first families have celebrated Halloween by hosting trick-or-treaters or throwing parties for friends and White House staff. Larger events have been held on the grounds, especially by families with younger children, such as Amy Carter, Chelsea Clinton and Malia and Sasha Obama.
President Richard Nixon went big for Halloween, hosting a series of public events for local children. In 1969, the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance was turned into the mouth of a 17-foot-tall (5.2 meters) pumpkin. Visitors walked past two witches stirring cauldrons after they entered.
President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, were greeted by a pumpkin on a table that was carved with the slogan, “Stay the Course.” The midterm elections were the next day, Nov. 2.
President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, held annual combination costume and birthday parties for friends and staff because the first lady's birthday fell on Oct. 26. In 1993, they showed up dressed as President James Madison and first lady Dolley Madison.
AP White House Correspondent Zeke Miller contributed to this report.