There’s Plenty to Do on the Fourth

Posted July 4, 2009 at 9:03am

Don’t worry about those rumors of a draconian police crackdown on fireworks this Fourth of July. It happens every year. The rumor-mongering, that is.

Since the beginning of the joint venture between the Metropolitan Police Department and the District’s Fire Department to enforce the city’s fireworks laws during the holiday, officials say a “heightened crackdown— story appears every year.

But according to Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Crosswhite, such reports are completely false. “There will be no additional crackdown on fireworks this year,— he said.

Instead, there will be the typical burdens of traffic, crowded Metro trains and a heavy security presence, although authorities again say they are expecting nothing out of the ordinary.

“We have been partnering with the Fire Department for nearly three years now in gathering up illegal fireworks in the city. It’s important to continue that united front,— said Michael Reese, inspector for the MPD.

“We are also trying to make sure that we get our message out there: There are legal fireworks and then there are illegal fireworks,— Reese says.

Of course, as any D.C. resident knows, the list of illegal fireworks heavily outweighs those that are legal. According to the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services, legal fireworks include “sparklers less than 20 inches, torches, box fire, fountains, cones, dip sticks, non-poisonous snakes, paper novelty items, colored lights, and paper caps.—

On the other had, illegal fireworks include those “that explode, such as cherry bombs, salutes, Roman candles, floral shells and artillery shells.—

The D.C. government urges its citizens to not only report the use of illegal fireworks but also any suspected sale of illegal fireworks to the D.C. Fire Marshal.

“We are actually seeing citizens increasingly step up on the issue of illegal fireworks,— Crosswhite said.

If you’re not planning your own fireworks celebration, however, chances are that you might need to use Metro to view the display on the National Mall. Metro officials have said they do not anticipate changes to the July 4 service despite last month’s deadly Metro train crash, although with an estimated 500,000 riders on Saturday, there will be inevitable delays and crowded train cars.

On July 4 and into the early hours of July 5, Metro trains will run from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., with rush hour service from 4 p.m. to midnight.

One change this year — and a convenient one at that — is that the Smithsonian Metro Station will be open for exit-only traffic from 6 p.m. until the start of the fireworks at 9:10 p.m. It will be entrance-only from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

For those planning to have an extra-good time on the Fourth, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will be offering free rides from Saturday, July 4, starting at 4 p.m until 4 a.m. on Sunday, July 5. During that 12-hour period, all intoxicated residents 21 year or older can call 800-200-TAXI to receive a free ride home for trips worth up to $50.

Whether or not your plans involve fireworks (legal, of course) or the consumption of festive beverages, here are some noteworthy events going on across Washington today.

• An annual Washington favorite is the “A Capitol Fourth— concert on the West Lawn. This year’s lineup includes Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, the Jersey Boys, Michael Feinstein, Natasha Bedingfield and, of course, the National Symphony Orchestra. Actor Jimmy Smits will be hosting the event, which takes place from 8 to 9:30 p.m. and is now in its 29th year.

Admission is free to the concert, with gates opening at 3 p.m. The closest Metro stops include Capitol South, Federal Center and Union Station.

The event’s finale, and the highlight of the weekend’s activities, is the fireworks over the Washington Monument timed with Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.— The fireworks will begin at 9:10 p.m. and end at 9:28 p.m. If you want to catch them without the crowds of the concert, Metro stops where there’s convenient viewing include Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, Judiciary Square, Federal Triangle and L’Enfant Plaza.

If you want to get within the National Mall grounds for viewing, security checkpoints will open at 10 a.m. All bags, coolers and individuals are subject to being searched. Items that are prohibited include alcoholic beverages, fireworks, firearms, barbeque grills and glass bottles.

For further details about “A Capitol Fourth,— visit pbs.org/capitolfourth.

• The National Independence Day Parade starts at 11:45 a.m. from Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street Northwest. It will then proceed down the length of Constitution Avenue to 17th Street and include invited bands, fife and drum corps, floats, military and specialty units, giant balloons, horses, drill teams, national dignitaries and celebrity participants. Metro stops nearby the length of the parade include the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Federal Triangle and Smithsonian.

For more details on the National Independence Day Parade, see july4thparade.com.

• Another annual favorite is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will run through Sunday. Held on The National Mall, this year’s event focuses on African American culture, the Americas and the culture of Wales. Admission is free and will be open from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The closest Metro stations to the festival include Smithsonian, Federal Triangle and Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter.

For more information on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, see festival.si.edu.

• The National Archives will be ringing in the 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with a reading of the document from 10 to 11 a.m. Visitors to the Archives will also be able to view four rare copies of the Declaration with extended museum hours from until 9 p.m. The closest Metro stop is the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter station.

For more information, see archives.gov.

• The Washington Nationals will be playing the Atlanta Braves at 1:05 p.m. The first 20,000 fans at the game will receive a free miniature American flag. There will also be a fireworks celebration at the end of the game. The closest Metro stop is Navy Yard.

For more information, see washington.nationals.mlb.com.