Getting corny at the White House

The halls of Congress are dim and quiet, at least for another week, as the action is outside of Washington. America has midterm elections coming up, and politicians are back in their home states and districts campaigning for their political lives.

Fear not, the political ads will be over soon. Then we’re on to 2020!

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump celebrated Halloween at the White House on Oct. 28, with a spooky agricultural backdrop. The White House South Portico was decorated with dried cornstalks creeping up the columns of the Truman balcony and below, more than 100 pumpkins of varying sizes and colors on top of dozens of hay bales. Twisted trees with colorful fall foliage completed the spooky look.

This tradition of celebrating Halloween at the White House dates back to the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s.

Last year’s décor included giant spider webs and jack-o-lanterns carved with faces of American presidents past. The first White House Halloween décor included skeletons, jack-o-lanterns and corn stalks, all decorated by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.

In their second Halloween at the White House, the Trumps handed out candy to trick-or-treaters, who included children of military families and local children.

The treats this year included full-size Hershey bars and Twizzlers wrapped in special White House packaging. When I was a kid, any full size candy bars in our bags meant we hit jackpot.

Last year’s treats included presidential M&Ms and cookies from the White House Pastry Kitchen. Journalists’ children trick-or-treated in the Oval Office and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

In 2009, the Obamas handed out dried fruit with the candy, a definite nod to First Lady Michelle’s anti-obesity campaign.

This year, President Trump didn’t make any formal remarks at the event, which was appropriate given the recent shooting tragedy at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Several government agencies were represented at this year’s Halloween festivities, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, whose booth included a tractor. You may remember that First Son Barron Trump was visibly excited at his father’s inauguration parade when the tractors rolled past the White House. I’m curious to know if Barron visited the USDA booth this year. According to sources at the event, the USDA booth was a hit among the children.

The Department of Health and Human Services brought emergency vehicles and NASA brought an astronaut suit.

The U.S. Air Force Band, the Rolling Strings, played tunes from “The Addams Family,” “Harry Potter,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Bewitched.” Kids were dressed up in a variety of costumes—from astronauts and first responders to dinosaurs and Captain America.

The next big public-facing holiday celebrated at the White House will be the lighting of the National Christmas tree on Nov. 28. The public can enter the lottery online at the National Parks Service website, and the event is aired on national television closer to Christmas.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.