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Fourth of July

"America’s Front Yard” Celebrates 241 Years of Independence

As the seat of the United States government and with the Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial as backdrop for a spectacular fireworks display, there are few places in America more appropriate or inspiring to spend Independence Day than Washington, D.C.

For more than half a century, the National Park Service has been at the heart of the Fourth of July festivities on the National Mall – coordinating the fireworks and concert on the Mall, and co-sponsoring the National Memorial Day Parade and A Capitol Fourth, the all-star salute to American independence broadcast live from the West Lawn of the Capitol. Every year hundreds of thousands of people come together on the Mall to celebrate of the founding of our nation.

Planning begins long before the parade steps off or the first firework is shot into the air, months in advance. The park establishes an incident management team to organize and administer the event. Working with a wide variety of federal and local partners, the team develops the strategy and organization to successfully manage all aspects of the event, including planning, operations, logistics, safety, public information, finance and more.Picture of park staff setting up lines and lines of fireworks.

As the big day approaches, set-up begins about ten days in advance. The United States Park Police works in conjunction with multiple agencies to develop a security plan for the event to ensure the safety of those who attend. More than 30,000 linear feet of chain link fencing and bike rack, the equivalent of 60 Washington Monuments stacked end to end, are placed around the Mall to establish a secure area for the festivities.

Some 350 portable toilets are placed along the more than two miles between the Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Rangers work with the fireworks contractor to safely get the 6,500 shells into place. Others plan the pre-fireworks concert at the Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument, working with performers and ensuring that the correct lighting and sound systems are available and in place.

On July 4, more than 200 National Park Service employees and more than 100 volunteers work on the National Mall and the adjacent George Washington Memorial Parkway. Access points are staffed and visitors brought through security. Staff and volunteer crews collect trash and recycling throughout the day. Medical aid stations are set up and manned. Rangers give talks at the memorials throughout the day.

After the fireworks are set off, another whole round of work begins. Cleanup crews begin their work even as the last of the shells are flickering out, working through the night and into the next day with rakes, blowers and other equipment to remove the mountains of trash left behind. Park staff and volunteers quickly remove fireworks debris from the Reflecting Pool and the fallout area after the event in order to reopen closed areas for visitors as quickly as possible.

Additional information and the full schedule of events for the 2017 celebration is online at www.nps.gov/foju. Have a happy Independence Day and enjoy the day!

Four red fireworks over the reflecting pool on the mall.

We all love to celebrate the Fourth of July. It is, after all, the birthday of our country. We grill, watch fireworks, and spend quality time with family and friends – what isn’t there to love?

But as we celebrate the holiday and the gift of independence that our Founding Fathers gave us, I want to reflect for a moment on the gifts Americans have given us throughout history and continue to gift us every day.

Every generation, individuals have risen to the challenge to make real and meaningful contributions to society, from our revolutionary ancestors to modern space pioneers. They were at the forefront of the sciences, arts, and literature. They challenged the status quo. They fought for a more equitable world. 

At 25, Booker T. Washington became the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute.

At 32, Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers association, predecessor to the United Farm Workers.

At 25, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. 

Image with 6 famous Americans with red overlay and white text that says  What will you give America?

Our history is filled with Americans rising to meet our nation’s challenges. And as Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I’m fortunate enough to see such incredible contributions being made throughout our Federal workforce.

These contributions are not limited to revolutionary eras or times of great hardship. They are not limited to age or ethnicity or gender or orientation. They are what we’ve come to expect throughout history. And they are what we get from our Federal employees as they work hard every day to serve the American people. Our Federal family continues to strive to fulfill our Founding Father’s vision and to set the bar for the next generation. They do it with the giving spirit that will motivate generations to come.

I know I will personally take time this weekend to honor the gifts of not only the great Americans who founded this nation, but also of those who continue to make our nation better today. I hope you will do the same.

Happy Independence Day.



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