Jul 2

July 3rd (Capitol Fourth) Dress Rehearsal Concert Free in DC

Just about every year for the past 10+ years my family has enjoyed going to the dress rehearsal of the Capitol Fourth on the West Lawn at the US Capitol building. It’s the concert that airs on PBS stations across the nation each July 4th and includes many great musical acts and DC’s awesome fireworks. Concert starts around 8 PM, but be sure to show up earlier (a few hours if you can) to get a decent seat. Even if you’re not in “prime” seating area there are multiple jumbo-trons so you can get a closer look at the performance.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the concert/event and actor Jimmy Smits is hosting (for the 2nd or 3rd year in a row, I think). The concert portion for 2010 includes: country music superstar Reba McEntire, legendary R & B artist Gladys Knight, country music sensation Darius Rucker (Hootie & the Blowfish), singer David Archuleta (American Idol), and actor and singer John Schneider, as well as world-renowned classical pianist Lang Lang with the National Symphony Orchestra.

The fun part about attending the dress rehearsal on July 3rd:

  • It’s not as crowded as it is on the actual 4th of July (although there’s still a good number of people)
  • You can bring blankets or lawn chairs to sit in and enjoy the concert
  • You get to hear the “bloopers” live… some of those actors and singers are darn-right hilarious!
  • You can arrive early and bring a picnic-style dinner
  • The DC Park service provides free bottled waters
  • It’s a family friendly concert
  • It’s FREE entertainment

The only “negatives” on attending the dress rehearsal instead of the live event on the 4th, in my opinion:

  • There are no fireworks at the end… because they’re saving them up for the actual event, of course.
  • In more recent years some of the main musical acts have *sadly* not shown up for the dress rehearsal. Instead they play a recording of them and have actors pretending to be them on stage. This happened a few years ago with the Beach Boys. It was a disappointment :-(

Some of my favorite memories from the Capitol Fourth dress rehearsals include:

  • Time spent with my parents and good family friends.
  • My son’s face lighting up when Sesame Street characters appeared in last year’s concert.
  • How funny the O’Jays were (the musical group that sang “People All Over the World, Join Hands, Start A Love Train, Love Train” song that was featured in Gap ads a few years ago around Christmas time). I don’t remember if there was an issue with the sound equipment or having to start over and over again, but they were joking around on stage and making the whole crowd burst into laughter.
  • Enjoying the National Symphony Orchestra’s traditional finale of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” – featuring the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and complete with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery (yes, they do it on the dress rehearsal!).
  • Enjoying a great musical line-up year-after-year and enjoying lounging on the lawn with family and friends.

Do any of you readers attend the July 3rd dress rehearsal or any other special concerts or events in the DC area on July 4th? Leave a comment and let me know what’s your favorite way to spend the holiday (ie. avoid the crowds or join in?). Hope you have a happy Independence Day everyone!