President Joe Biden will host first responders, military personnel, essential workers and their families for a barbecue and fireworks display on the White House lawn this July 4, revisiting traditional celebrations hosted by predecessors Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. The celebration will reflect the re-emergence of Americans after the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the country last year.
More than 1,000 guests are expected at the event, the largest of Biden’s presidency.
Here’s how previous administrations celebrated the holiday:
Jefferson, the country’s third president, was the first to celebrate Independence Day at the White House in 1801. He marked the occasion with horse races, a parade and a festival, according to the White House Historical Association.
Jefferson opened the Oval Room – now the Blue Room – to citizens, diplomats, civilian and military officers, and leaders of the Cherokee Nation. The festivities were accompanied by the Music of the Marines.
The annual celebration started by Jefferson continued throughout the 19th century. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President, allowed African American schools and churches, as well as other religious groups, to hold a picnic on the southern White House grounds amid the Civil War in 1864. Lincoln attended as a guest.
Often a familiar backdrop at White House events, the Marine Band has been a staple of Independence Day since the 19th century.
On July 4, 1825, President John Quincy Adams attended a performance of the Marine Band before listening to a recitation of the Declaration of Independence on the United States Capitol and receiving guests at the White House.
President Grover Cleveland appeared at a July 4 concert in 1886 with his new wife, Frances Folsom.
James K. Polk, the country’s 11th president, was the first to present the annual July 4 fireworks display in Washington, according to the WHHA.
Beginning in 1845, Polk opened the White House for an Independence Day reception each year. At the inaugural event, the Washington Temperance Associations hosted dinners on the property’s western grounds. There were readings from the Declaration of Independence, speeches and chants of temperance.
Guests saw the evening fireworks display near the current Ellipse. One newspaper proclaimed that “nothing like this half-as-brilliant has ever been seen in this city.” The show ended tragically when spectators were struck by rogue fireworks, killing one and injuring a dozen others.
It’s not uncommon for the president and his family to leave Washington around the July 4th vacation. Despite his absence, President Richard Nixon invited a group of Vietnam War veterans and White House staff to celebrate the Fourth on the South Lawn in 1969. The guests would have appreciated the fireworks.
A louder event occurred the following year. In 1970, Nixon and his supporters held a bipartisan “Honor America Day” rally on the National Mall to boost morale amid the Vietnam War, along with other social issues of the time.
Instead, the day was marked by protests by protesters, some of whom jumped into the Reflecting Pool. In response, not identified counter-protesters fired tear gas into the crowd, according to the Washingtonian.
President Ronald Reagan attended a traditional picnic and fireworks display on the South Lawn of the White House in 1981, according to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The president had survived an assassination attempt months earlier.
The White House is at the heart of the July 4th celebrations in DC
For more than two centuries, the White House has always played a central role in the nation’s Independence Day celebrations. (July 2nd)
July 4 was an opportunity for President Barack Obama to honor members of the United States military and their families with an annual concert organized by the United Service Organizations. Thousands of people attended the events.
Obama kicked off the last Independence Day of his presidency in 2016 with a barbecue at the White House and a concert in the East Room. Rapper Kendrick Lamar and singer Janelle Monae performed for the military and administrative staff.
Amid a wave of coronavirus cases last year, President Donald Trump held a “Salute to America” at the White House to commemorate July 4. First responders, doctors and nurses were among the guests invited to a gala on the South Lawn of the White House. A military band, flyovers, parachute jumps and fireworks entertained the participants.
Despite warnings from public health officials to avoid large gatherings, Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and many guests did not wear masks during the event.
Contribution: The Associated Press