A Capitol Fourth

fireworks
Image Courtesy of Capital Concerts

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Capitol celebration marks Independence Day

On July Fourth, the U.S. Capitol hosted the nation’s largest July Fourth party.

Hundreds of thousands of people filled the National Mall and the Capitol’s west front lawn for the annual Independence Day celebration. The gala event, called A Capitol Fourth, was capped off with a colossal fireworks show.

“I could have gone to a few barbecues,” said concert-goer Corey Lester of Gaithersburg, Md.. Instead, Lester, an Army sergeant first class, chose to bring his five children to the Capitol for a unique and truly American experience. The location provided a “talking point,” Lester said. “I talk to our children about how important it is to give of yourself.”

For members of the Pacson and Abrigo families, in town from as far away as Texas, Nevada, and Hawaii, the reasons were similar. “It doesn’t get better than this,” one family member said of the combination of the famous fireworks show and the significance of celebrating American independence “in the center of it.”

Hosted by actor Jimmy Smits, the concert featured rock 'n' roll legend Little Richard, comedian and banjo player Steve Martin, singer Josh Groban, Glee star Matthew Morrison, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, and Broadway star Kelli O’Hara, among others. The National Symphony Orchestra closed out the show with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" complete with live cannon fire. Then, the night sky came ablaze with fireworks.

Concert-goer Elli Ambros of Warrenton, Va. said she was a “festival freak” and was excited to hear singer Josh Groban and see the famed fireworks show. But, she and her husband Keith Braesicke agreed, the event’s symbolism was every bit as important. “When it comes to the nation’s birth, this is the place to do it,” Braesicke said. Being in the shadow of the Capitol dome and contemplating the freedoms and quality of life available to Americans was “pretty humbling,” he added.

This July Fourth marked the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the seminal document formally severed the American colonies’ ties with Great Britain. The Continental Congress agreed to this goal on July 2, 1776, and formally approved the declaration two days later.

For more information about the concert and rebroadcasts, visit the PBS A Capitol Fourth website.