White House donates canceled picnic food to Walter Reed
Perishable food from the canceled congressional picnic was donated to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the first lady’s spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham confirmed Friday.
The non-perishable food will be kept at the White House for a future event.
As White House cooks were spotted Wednesday deep in preparation for the event, methodically grilling hundreds of large steaks just outside the press area, President Donald Trump announced he would cancel the annual bipartisan event.
“It just didn’t feel right to me,” he told reporters. The move came as Trump signed an executive order aimed at reversing his administration’s practice of separating immigration children from families at the border.
By Wednesday afternoon, the steaks had disappeared, the charcoal in the grills near the White House press area still warm. On the South Lawn of the White House, where the event was set to take place, box trucks were still parked near the fountain, and roundtables and folding chairs were stacked high, two giant wooden boxes labeled “Popcorn Machine” forlornly sitting nearby on the grass.
The picnic is aimed at bringing members of Congress, their families and members of the administration together for a casual, lighthearted evening. Last year’s event had a New York theme, complete with a carousel, sailboat racing in the fountain and snack stands with popcorn, cotton candy and soft pretzels.
The tradition dates back to September 1945, when President Harry Truman hosted 150 Democratic members of Congress at Jefferson Island in the Chesapeake Bay, per the White House Historical Association.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, made it a bipartisan event, hosting a “Country Fair” celebration on the South Lawn for children and grandchildren of members of Congress, Cabinet members and other government officials.
Since then, the picnic has provided a casual atmosphere for socialization and camaraderie.
This year, amid bitter partisan divisions and a crisis of child separation on the border, the show did not go on.