A D.C. guide to Fourth of July events

The United States turns the big 225 next month.

Although it may not sound as exciting as a 21st birthday bash, many Americans have planned a hearty celebration. Fireworks, parades and backyard barbecues have become the norm for celebrating Independence Day. But in the nation’s capital, the routine celebration is merely a starting point.

D.C. provides some of the biggest and best Fourth of July festivities in the nation. And unlike thousands of people across the country, GW summer students do not have to travel far to see it.

Junior Alice Lingo spent last summer in the District and took part in some of the city’s Fourth of July events.

“I went to a party under the Memorial Bridge in Arlington,” Lingo said. “The entire Potomac Bank was covered with kids and college students. It was a wild experience.”

Junior Vineet Daga said he is excited about his first Fourth of July in D.C. He said he plans to watch the fireworks on the Mall. Daga said most years he spends the holiday on vacation, but said he is glad to be in D.C. for the celebration this year.

To take full advantage of all the District’s July Fourth activities, patriotic students must get up early. The celebration begins at 9 a.m. at the National Archives. Remember to bring water and dress to sweat. Fashion tip: wear red, white and blue.

In honor of the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, both the Declaration and the Constitution will be on display at the National Archives at 700 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. Actors portraying John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and even our University’s namesake himself, George Washington, will mingle with crowds, take questions and sign autographs.

After a few hours of political banter with the founding fathers, it will be time to run over to 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW for the National Independence Day Parade beginning at 12 p.m. More than 400,000 people are expected to line the parade route, so to stake a spot up front, as early arrival is a must.

The parade will feature high school marching bands from across the country, floats, giant Helium balloons, Uncle Sam on stilts and more. The Grand Marshal of the parade will be Miss America Angela Perez Baraquio. The parade will pass between the White House and the Washington Monument, travel past the Mall and will finish near the Lincoln Memorial on 17th Street. The parade will also be televised on UPN for revelers not able to get out of bed and down to the Mall on a day off.

The Independence Day celebration continues with the Smithsonian’s National Folk-Life Festival on the Mall. The festival begins June 27 and runs until July 1. It re-opens again on Independence Day and finishes on July 8. The festival offers exhibits depicting the culture of both Bermuda and New York City. Bermuda culture is represented by performances by gombey dancers, community bands and church quartets. Maritime artisans, costume makers and storytellers also provide glimpses into life in Bermuda.

Subway conductors, Wall Street traders, Broadway costume designers, Brooklyn bagel bakers and more will travel from New York City to show D.C. tourists what life in the Big Apple is like. Music and dance workshops are offered at the New York City venue on the Mall.

The Folk-Life Festival also features “Masters of the Building Arts.” This venue brings 70 artisans from a wide variety of trades onto the Mall. Stone carvers, marble and stone masons, ornamental blacksmiths, mosaic artisans and others will demonstrate their crafts.

After learning about the cultures of Bermuda, New York City and the workings of artisans under the hot July sun, visitors might want to cool off. Instead of trekking back to campus, duck into one of the Smithsonian museums or the National Gallery for a brief break from the beating sun.

The fountain at the Sculpture Garden, which doubles as an ice skating rink in the winter, becomes a makeshift wading pool July 4 and is a good place to cool off hot and tired feet.

After a rest, and maybe a red, white and blue Popsicle from a vendor, it will be time to brave the crowds at “A Capital Fourth Celebration” at 8p.m. The Independence Day concert is held on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event, which is broadcast live on PBS. More than 500,000 people are expected to attend.

Barry Bostwick, who plays the mayor of New York on TV’s “Spin City,” will host the celebration. Performers will include the National Symphony Orchestra, the Pointer Sisters, Luther Vandross, Ray Charles, Lee Ann Womack and more. The concert will last until about 9:10 p.m., when the fireworks display begins. The fireworks will be set off from the Washington Monument grounds.

Lingo said she watched the display from the Lincoln Memorial last summer.

“I left my apartment about 10 minutes before the fireworks were supposed to start and sat right in front of the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.” Lingo said. “They were fabulous, I just wish I would have been closer to hear the music.”

Spending July 4 in the D.C. provides many opportunities to celebrate the nation’s birthday with thousands of people from across the country. But there are alternative ways to celebrate the Fourth rather than spending all day on the Mall.

Junior Manish Bhatt spent most of his Independence Days in his small-town home of Stamford, N.Y. He said he is excited to be in D.C. for July Fourth but will miss his hometown festivities.

“I am ready for a change, ” Bhatt said. “But I will also be thinking about my home on the Fourth.”

For those afraid of crowds or who miss their small-town roots, D.C. suburbs like Fairfax and Arlington, Va. offer small parades full of fire engines and Girl Scout troops. They also have their own fireworks displays.

If a long weekend is an option, students may like to spend a few days at the beach. Ocean City, Md., has its own fireworks display on Independence Day, presented as the U.S. Naval Academy Band plays patriotic tunes.

No matter how it is celebrated, there is no escaping the Fourth of July in Washington. Thousands will travel hundreds of miles to participate in events just a few blocks away from GW’s campus. So get out the red, white and blue, pin up the Stars and Stripes and help the United States celebrate its 225th birthday D.C. style.

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