Kennedy Center honorees still relish slimmed-down tribute

Debbie Allen and Dick Van Dyke attend the Kennedy Center Honors.

2020 Kennedy Center honoree violinist Midori, attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree violinist Midori, attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter, second from left, speaks during a press event with the 2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, violinist Midori, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter, second from left, speaks during a press event with the 2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, violinist Midori, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, speaks during a press event with violinist Midori, left, and singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, speaks during a press event with violinist Midori, left, and singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen laugh during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen laugh during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Garth Brooks
FILE – In this Nov. 18, 2019 file photo, Garth Brooks attends cocktails and conversation in celebration of A&E Biography’s “Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On” television special at The Bowery Hotel in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP, File)

Debbie Allen
FILE – In this May 28, 2015, file photo, Debbie Allen attends the “How To Get Away With Murder” ATAS Event at Sunset-Gower Studios, in Los Angeles. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (Photo by Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2005 file photo, Violinist Midori performs with New York Philharmonic conducted by Marin Alsop at Lincoln Center in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (AP Photo/Osamu Honda)
FILE – In this Oct. 14, 2005 file photo, Violinist Midori performs with New York Philharmonic conducted by Marin Alsop at Lincoln Center in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (AP Photo/Osamu Honda)

FILE - In this May 3, 2009 file photo, Joan Baez performs at a benefit concert celebrating Pete Seeger's 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
FILE – In this May 3, 2009 file photo, Joan Baez performs at a benefit concert celebrating Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Dick Van Dyke
FILE – This Jan. 27, 2013 file photo shows Dick Van Dyke on stage at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, file)

2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; actor Dick Van Dyke; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; and violinist Midori pose for a group photos at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; actor Dick Van Dyke; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; and violinist Midori pose for a group photos at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, center, and guest of singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, listens during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, center, and guest of singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, listens during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen and Norman Nixon attend the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen and Norman Nixon attend the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

2020 Kennedy Center honoree singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

2020 Kennedy Center honoree, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks stands with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks stands with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

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2020 Kennedy Center honoree violinist Midori, attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dick Van Dyke attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter, second from left, speaks during a press event with the 2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, violinist Midori, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, speaks during a press event with violinist Midori, left, and singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, during the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Actor Dick Van Dyke, and choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen laugh during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Garth Brooks
Debbie Allen
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2005 file photo, Violinist Midori performs with New York Philharmonic conducted by Marin Alsop at Lincoln Center in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. (AP Photo/Osamu Honda)
FILE - In this May 3, 2009 file photo, Joan Baez performs at a benefit concert celebrating Pete Seeger's 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden in New York. This year’s Kennedy Center Honors will be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. The 43rd class of honorees includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, actor Dick Van Dyke, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori.(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
Dick Van Dyke
2020 Kennedy Center honorees, from left, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen; singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez; actor Dick Van Dyke; country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks; and violinist Midori pose for a group photos at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, center, and guest of singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, listens during a press event at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, choreographer, and actress Debbie Allen and Norman Nixon attend the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez attends the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
2020 Kennedy Center honoree, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks stands with his wife, Trisha Yearwood, at the 43nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at The Kennedy Center on Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
WTOP's Kyle Cooper reports that this year's Kennedy Center Honors is a slimmed down affair.

WASHINGTON (AP) — This year’s Kennedy Center Honors may be a slimmed-down affair as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic — but honoree Dick Van Dyke still says it’s “the capper on my career.”

The 43rd class also includes country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen, singer-songwriter Joan Baez and violinist Midori. They were honored Friday night at a medallion ceremony that had been delayed from December 2020.

All the honorees called the lifetime artistic achievement award a unique honor, even for an accomplished artist.

Brooks joked: “I don’t mind being the weak link on the chain. I’m in the chain!”

Normally the medallion ceremony is held at the State Department, but this year it was moved to the Kennedy Center’s opera house, with about 120 people spread out at tables on the stage and backstage area looking out at the empty rows of seats. Singer Gloria Estefan hosted the ceremony and cellist Yo Yo Ma performed; both are previous Kennedy Center Honors recipients.

The recipients received short tributes and spoke after getting the iconic medallion placed around their necks. Several of the artists said they hoped their modified ceremony would be one of a series of benchmarks in the country’s cultural reopening.

Midori said it made her happy, “coming out of these very dark times, to be able to see the arts coming back.”

Midori says her work with children inspires her music.

Allen is a veteran of tribute programs for previous Kennedy Center Honors recipients. She said this year’s process was uniquely intimate. “We’re spending a lot more time together than other groups of honorees,” she said.

Allen said it’s an honor to be recognized for her body of work and “humbling for me who has worked here for decades at the Kennedy Center.”

Baez brought an unexpected guest: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Baez paints portraits and posts them online, and she painted one of Fauci last year. They started talking and “struck up a mutual fan-ship,” Baez said.

Baez expressed gratitude, saying, “to be honored for the connection of music and social action is very rewarding.”

Prior to the ceremony Friday evening, several attendees visibly scrambled to put on their masks properly when Baez and the masked Fauci entered together.

Instead of the usual several-hour black-tie event, followed by dinner, Friday’s festivities ran just 90 minutes with a limited audience. The musical performances and tributes — traditionally the centerpiece of the event — were split into two other nights; one took place Thursday and the second is scheduled for Saturday.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter Rutter told reporters they “had been filming tributes all over campus.” All the events will be edited into a television special, which will be broadcast on CBS on June 6.

The honorees met with President Joe Biden on Thursday, marking a return to tradition after former President Donald Trump avoided the celebration during his tenure.

Baez said she she sang a song to Biden this week in the Oval Office.

Trump’s presence in the White House hung over the annual events from the start, with several 2017 honorees threatening to boycott if he attended.

Trump chose to stay away for the entirety of his time in office, to the quiet relief of administrators who otherwise may have faced an uprising from the artists.

The performing arts center is planning a full-scale reopening in September with events slowly ramping up until then. The 44th Kennedy Center Honors program should take place, back on its usual schedule, in December.

WTOP’s Kyle Cooper contributed to this report.

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