Officials prepare for in-person Fourth celebration — and say you should, too

Park service and park police officials on Friday said they looked forward to an old-school, in-person Fourth of July celebration on the National Mall for the first time since 2019.

“This is going to be a traditional Fourth of July that longtime residents or attendees have become used to over the years,” Mike Litterst, of the National Park Service, told reporters.

The events start with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, starting on the Mall at 11 a.m. The National Independence Day Parade begins at 11:45 a.m. and goes down Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Street, officials said.

The Capitol Fourth concert begins at 8 p.m., and the fireworks begin at 9:09 p.m. and go for 17 ½ minutes.

Litterst said all these events are back in person for the first time since the pandemic began.

Sergeant Thomas Twiname, of the U.S. Park Police, said access points to the Mall open at 11 a.m. He also made note of items that attendees can’t bring:

  • Alcohol
  • Ammunition
  • Balloons
  • Bladed, edged, or sharp tools or implements
  • Coolers/thermal Containers larger than 36 quarts (23”x15”x15”)
  • Club-like items and striking devices (including selfies sticks and golf umbrellas)
  • Destructive Devices, Explosives, or Combustible Chemical Compounds and Mixtures
  • Disabling chemicals including mace and pepper spray
  • Firearms and projectile weapons
  • Possession of firearms in national parks is prohibited, governed by federal as well as local law, which may vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the national park is located. All visitors should be aware of and follow applicable firearms laws of the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Glass bottles or containers
  • Laser pointers
  • Packages (including wrapped packages, parcels, containers, or bundles where the inside cannot be visually inspected, including gift wrapped or plain paper wrapped packages)
  • Props and displays, such as coffins, crates, crosses, theaters, cages, and statues; furniture and furnishings, such as desks, chairs, tables, bookcases, cabinets, platforms, podiums and lecterns; shelters, such as tents, boxes and other enclosures; wagons and cars, podiums, and platforms, and folding chairs. (Wheelchairs in active use by disabled people, prams, bicycles and small umbrellas are not included)
  • Supports for signs. These cannot exceed four (4) feet in length, one-quarter (1/4) inch in thickness, with no sharp points, and may not be made of wood, steel or metal)
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
  • Launching, landing, or operating unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft (drones) on National Park Service property is strictly prohibited
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Any other items determined to be a potential safety hazard

Litterst added that people should be patient in the big crowds that are expected.

“Don’t plan on driving,” Litterst advised, adding that road closures would begin at about 6 a.m. Monday. “Parking is difficult in downtown D.C. on the best of days.” The park service recommends Metro, but Litterst reminded everyone that even they are running slow, with waits up to 60 minutes expected.

Twiname said people can sign up for updates from the park service by texting JULY4DC to 888777.

Asked how many people the park service was expecting, Litterst said the crowd would likely number in the hundreds of thousands, but depending on the weather, they were ready for “a dozen to a million.”

Restricted and secure areas for Monday’s Fourth of July celebration. (Courtesy National Park Service)

WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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