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Fourth of July celebration on the Mall will feature fireworks and masks

Fireworks illuminate the Mall in celebration of Independence Day in the District  on July 4, 2018.
Fireworks illuminate the Mall in celebration of Independence Day in the District on July 4, 2018. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)
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Flyovers by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels jet demonstration teams, plus a huge fireworks display, will highlight the Fourth of July festivities Saturday on the Mall, the Interior Department announced.

Vintage World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-29 bomber will also participate.

Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, 300,000 cloth face coverings will be available to visitors, even though President Trump, the nominal host, has refused to wear one.

The date that marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 comes this year at a time of crises in politics, race relations and public health, as Americans celebrate and condemn aspects of the nation’s past and fret over its future.

The protests that have erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May are expected to draw large crowds, which will join those coming to attend the holiday’s events on the Mall.

The government is urging visitors to stay six feet away from anyone who isn’t a family member, wear a mask and wash hands at the more than 100 hand-washing stations throughout the Mall.

And don’t shake hands.

Many local fireworks displays have been canceled this year, and parades and other tributes are going virtual.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) expressed concerns about the federal government’s Fourth of July events Saturday.

“We’ve commented to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance,” she said.

The District will not attempt to block people from getting to the Mall, Bowser’s chief of staff John Falcicchio said, although the mayor has encouraged residents not to go, to avoid catching and spreading the virus.

When White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the District’s reluctance to hold Fourth of July events because of the coronavirus, she said: “The president has said that we should follow our local authorities with masks, and that’s the decision — that he encourages people to follow those authorities, the CDC guidelines. I’d also note it says recommended but not required. And we are very much looking forward to the Fourth of July celebration.”

Two of the companies that handled last year’s show, Garden State Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci, will return this year. The show will start at 9:07 p.m. and will be canceled in case of heavy rain, thunderstorms or high winds.

The roughly 35-minute display will be launched from an area more than a mile in length, stretching from Inlet Bridge at the south end of West Potomac Park to north of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

The military flyovers will run from about 6:45 to 8 p.m.

More than 800 acres of the Mall will be open to the public for the flyovers and fireworks, including the area around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument, among other locations.

There will be no VIP areas or military vehicles on display on the Mall, as there were, amid controversy, last year, officials said.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host events on the South Lawn of the White House and the Ellipse, just south of the White House. The event will be streamed online at whitehouse.gov. There may be some VIP seating for that event, a White House spokesperson said.

The area of the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial, Constitution Avenue NW, 17th Street NW and Independence Avenue SW will be accessible at several entry points, the department said in a statement Wednesday.

Visitors will be screened, and all coolers, backpacks and packages will be subject to inspection, the statement said.

Entry points will be open from 1 to 9 p.m. They will be located at Constitution Avenue at 20th Street NW; Constitution Avenue between Henry Bacon Drive and 23rd Street NW; and 17th Street between Constitution Avenue NW and Independence Avenue SW, near the World War II Memorial.

Numerous streets downtown will be closed. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will close at 4 p.m. Saturday, and Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed to pedestrian traffic all day.

Metro will run more trains and stay open past the regular closing time of 9 p.m. to accommodate crowds expected on the Mall.

Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

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