Washington, D.C., always hosts some sort of Fourth of July celebrations, but last year’s event was a comparatively modest affair: A parade down Constitution Avenue preceded the opening of the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol to the public for a concert and the usual fireworks. Typically, the tone of the day is nonpolitical and sitting presidents stay out of the spotlight.
This year’s festivities, however, will feature something the president has dubbed a “Salute to America” ― an all-out flag-waving extravaganza starring himself.
Trump’s clear fascination with displays of military might strike many as a baffling evocation of oppressive dictatorships the world over. But Trump has yearned to see military tactical vehicles rolling down the streets of Washington, D.C., at least since he began planning his inauguration ceremony. Trump may have been inspired by Bastille Day of 2017 when he sat beside French President Emmanuel Macron to watch thousands of French troops march in formation with horses, fighter jets and helicopters.
And so the American president made a few changes to the annual Washington festivities, and the National Park Service has diverted around $2.5 million in fees typically used to improve its parks to foot the bill, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
“It’ll be like no other. It’ll be special,” Trump remarked in the Oval Office earlier this week. “And I hope a lot of people come, and it’s going to be about this country, and it’s a salute to America.”
Here’s what the day will entail:
It all starts with the usual parade.
From 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST, marching bands, military units, horses, floats and more will strut down D.C.’s Constitution Avenue as part of the National Independence Day Parade. It will be streamed over YouTube beginning at 5 p.m. EST.
There will be tanks, but they will be parked.
Actually driving tanks around the nation’s capital would tear apart streets and damage bridges, experts have warned, and so the vehicles are expected to be parked along the National Mall.
“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas,” the president said earlier this week. “But we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abram tanks. And we have some incredible equipment — military equipment on display — brand new. And we’re very proud of it.”
Far from being “brand new,” the U.S. military has not used World War II–era M4 Sherman tanks since the 1950s, according to CNN. The M1 Abrams tanks were used during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, The New York Times noted, and are still in use today.
In a July 2 tweet, Trump said the military vehicles would serve to show “the American people, among other things, the strongest and most advanced Military anywhere in the World.”
Trump will give an hourlong speech with flyovers from the Navy’s Blue Angels.
The president will address the nation at 6:30 p.m. EST before the Lincoln Memorial.
As HuffPost reported earlier this month, the Republican National Committee and others within Trump’s circle have been offering major donors tickets to the speech, where they will sit in a VIP area close to Trump. The politicization of an Independence Day event by the president has upset ethics advocates.
Asked earlier whether he believed he could give a speech that would “reach all Americans,” Trump answered in the affirmative.
“I think so. I think so. I think I’ve reached most Americans. Most Americans want no crime. Most Americans want a strong military. They want good education,” he said earlier this week, continuing, “They want good healthcare. If you look at preexisting conditions, the Republicans are going to save preexisting conditions.”
A schedule of events released by the Department of the Interior says this portion of the event “honors America’s armed forces with music, military demonstrations, flyovers and much more.”
Separately, John Stamos, Carole King and other celebrities will appear. (Separately!)
Performers including King, violinist Lindsey Stirling, singer Vanessa Carlton and the National Symphony Orchestra join a number of others for “A Capitol Fourth,” the annual concert on the Capitol’s West Lawn broadcast by PBS. It starts at 8 p.m. EST.
As King was careful to note, the event happens every year and is not officially affiliated with Trump’s shenanigans.
Finally, there will be a whole lot of fireworks.
The day will conclude with a 9 p.m. EST fireworks display, launched from West Potomac Park and from behind the Lincoln Memorial, according to the Interior Department. Trump said it would be the “biggest ever” such display in a July 2 tweet.
In an attempt to downplay the cost of the celebrations, however, Trump claimed Wednesday that the fireworks had been donated by “two of the greats.”