Independence Day in Washington is like Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pa., a patriotic palooza. As if the stakes couldn’t be higher on the grandest stage at the capital of the free world, we could, possibly, be treated to yacht rock legend Michael McDonald singing “Sweet Freedom” with the Muppets as a follow-up act.
Of all the major holidays, D.C. really shines (or smokes, or swelters) on Independence Day, with the capital city coming alive with fireworks, concerts, Major League Baseball and even a fairground with midway rides.
Sure, the National Mall is the big gathering spot in D.C. for watching the fireworks come Friday evening, with the temporary concert venue on the West Front of the Capitol all set to blast tunes from everyone from McDonald to the Muppets to Frankie Valli for the Capitol Fourth celebration. What a fool believes! But the Mall and the Capitol grounds are not the only places to watch the pyrotechnics, not by a long shot.
Any higher ground vantage point, whether it’s Meridian Hill Park or the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Monument in Rosslyn, Va., or the roof of a pal’s apartment building will offer all the views with fewer sweaty souls jostling for precious few spots.
The fireworks and Capitol Fourth are a small component of the festivities, though.
The Washington Nationals, fresh from a Midwestern road swing in Milwaukee and Chicago, are back for a homestead against the Colorado Rockies, Chicago Cubs and Baltimore Orioles. On Friday, the Nats will play the Cubs in an 11:05 a.m. game that will feature lots and lots of flags and many beer cans emblazoned with Old Glory. Fireworks are usually to be had. Such an early game lets everyone get out in plenty of time to find their ways to the Mall, Capitol or that pal’s apartment building.
And let’s not forget about the D.C. Capital Fair at beloved RFK Stadium, which started June 27 and extends through Sunday. We might not be a state or have a vote in Congress, but we’ve got a fair, complete with a ferris wheel, a petting zoo and wolf show (no word on whether Nats outfielder Jayson Werth will be attending) and illusionists, hypnotists and plenty of greasy food. This week through Thursday, the fair runs from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Starting Friday and going through Sunday, it runs from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Yacht rock, baseball, things blowing up in the night sky, fried food and carnies. What’s more American than that?
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick