WASHINGTON, July 4 (UPI) — The Capitol Fourth concert/fireworks show went off with a blast Monday as rain failed to turn the evening into a dud.
The White House earlier canceled its annual July 4th picnic and fireworks viewing on the South Lawn held exclusively for military veterans and White House staff and their families. But the event moved indoors and President Barack Obama not only celebrated his last Fourth of July in the White House but his daughter Malia’s 18th birthday on the same date.
On the Mall, the rain abated and the fireworks show went on as scheduled at 9:09 p.m. although partially obscured by clouds.
Capitol Police said only severe weather would force the cancellation of the 36th annual concert, which was expected to draw about 200,000 visitors. Rain had been falling through the region and the crowds were smaller than usual.
“Mother Nature has tempted us before, but we’ve never had to cancel,” said executive producer Michael Tolbert.
The grounds were still damp from earlier rains.
“I mean, where else is better to watch the 4th of July fireworks than Washington, D.C.?” said Monnalisa Afifi, who was on the Mall, to NBC 4.
Smokey Robinson, Kenny Loggins, Alisan Porter, Jackie Evancho, Gavin DeGraw, Amber Riley and the U.S. Army band performed. Organizers taped the full dress rehearsal Sunday night and that would have been televised on PBS for 90 minutes, starting at 8 p.m., in case the event was canceled. Fireworks then would have been rescheduled for Tuesday night.
Because of so-so conditions for fireworks viewing, the PBS broadcast substituted some fireworks from previous shows.
“We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years. It was the patriotic thing to do,” PBS tweeted.
We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years. It was the patriotic thing to do. #July4thPBS
— A Capitol Fourth (@July4thPBS) July 5, 2016
Tom Bergeron hosted the live program at the Capitol, which not only celebrated the 240th birthday of the United States, but also the United Service Organizations’ 75th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama and the first lady hosted the annual event indoors with Janelle Monae and Kendrick Lamar providing entertainment in the East Room.
But its was the first daughter who became the star attraction.
“And just because it’s a job of a father to embarrass his daughters, I’ve got one last job,” Obama said at the end of his speech. “It just so happens that we celebrate our country’s birthday on the same day that we celebrate my oldest daughter’s birthday,” Obama said before leading the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to Malia, who later joined her father on stage to give him a celebratory hug.
Obama paid tribute to the military.
“We all know that our freedoms are dependent on an incredible group of men and women in uniform and their families who look out for us every single day,” the president said. “Some of them are in attendance here today, for those in our military who could not attend, we just want to say how much we admire, respect and appreciate everything you do to fight for our freedom every single day.”
In addition, Obama stressed the Fourth of July’s importance.
“We enjoy the hot dogs, we enjoy the burgers, we enjoy the barbecue, we enjoy the day off for a lot of us, we enjoy the fireworks. But it’s important to remember what a miracle this country is,” Obama said. “How incredible – how incredibly lucky we are that people, generations ago, were willing to take up arms and fight for our freedom. And then people, inside this country, understanding that there were imperfections in our union and were willing to keep on fighting on behalf of extending that freedom to all people and not just some.”