Sparks set to fly over Trump plan for Fourth of July fireworks show

Fireworks over New York City during the 2017 US Independence Day celebrations. This year's edition in Washington is set to be dominated by President Donald Trump, who plans a starring role for himself .
Fireworks over New York City during the 2017 US Independence Day celebrations. This year's edition in Washington is set to be dominated by President Donald Trump, who plans a starring role for himself .PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation's premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall in Washington, to be closer to the Potomac River.

He is also making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to administration officials.

The President's starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation's founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally.

Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarm bells among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honoured and well-organised summer tradition. Fireworks on the Mall, which the National Park Service has orchestrated for more than half a century, draw hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and mark one of the highlights of the city's tourist season.

The event has been broadcast live on television since 1947 and since 1981 has been accompanied by a free concert on the West Lawn of the US Capitol featuring high-profile musicians and the National Symphony Orchestra.

The new event, to be called "A Salute to America", will shift the fireworks launch to West Potomac Park, less than 1.6km south-west of its usual location near the Washington Monument.

The revised Independence Day celebration is the culmination of two years of bids by Mr Trump to create a major patriotic event centred on him and his supporters, including failed efforts to mount a military parade modelled on the Bastille Day celebration in France.

The new event has become a top priority for new Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, whom Mr Trump tasked with the job three months ago, officials said.

The President has received regular briefings on the effort in the Oval Office and has got involved in the minutiae of the planning .

Representative Betty McCollum, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, said in an interview that she is concerned that Mr Trump could polarise what is typically a unifying event for Americans.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Sparks set to fly over Trump plan for Fourth of July fireworks show'. Print Edition | Subscribe