Everything you wanted to know about Trump's July Fourth celebration

Tanks, the president, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band, the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and the Blue Angels are all part of the program.
Image: US Naval Academy Holds Commencement Ceremony In Annapolis
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly over graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy on May 22, 2015, in Annapolis, Maryland.Mark Wilson / Getty Images file

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By Hallie Jackson

President Donald Trump's supersized Fourth of July celebration is just days away, and it's shaping up to be quite the birthday party.

Here's our cheat sheet on who's in, who's out — or just plain put off — and what to expect from the extravaganza.

So, what’s it called?

The Salute to America.

Who — and what — are in it?

Tanks. Troops. The president. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the U.S. Army Band, the Armed Forces Chorus, the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, and the U.S. Navy Blue Angels are all part of the program.

Some tanks will be on display, but, as Trump noted, "We gotta be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas.” He touted “the brand new Sherman tanks, and we have the brand new Abrams tanks.” (The Sherman went out of service in the 1950s.) The president is set to deliver a speech on Thursday, too.

The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps marches in the Independence Day parade in Washington, D.C., on July 3, 2016.Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post/Getty Images file

Trump has been diligently boosting the festivities.

What do we know about the president’s speech?

A source familiar with Trump’s remarks, which the president will deliver from the Lincoln Memorial, insists they will not be political, but rather “uplifting” and “patriotic,” celebrating the flag and the military. Trump himself suggested this week that he thinks his speech could reach all Americans (but he then followed up by saying the Democrats’ health care plan will “destroy the country” when discussing how most Americans want no crime, good education, and good health care).

Workers build a stage and bleachers for the "Salute to America" event at the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington on July 1, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Is Air Force One going to fly over?

Probably, according to a source familiar with the planning. (And since the president will be on the ground rather than in the plane, it technically would not be called Air Force One, but “one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft, which carry the tail codes 28000 and 29000.” You can use AF1 colloquially, though.)

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What other aircraft will we see?

A defense official confirms that pilots will show off the F-35 fighter jet, the Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and the new version of the president's Marine One.

Who will attend?

Whoever wants to. The event is free and open to the public, but there will be a ticketed section toward the front for VIPs.

Will there still be fireworks?

Of course: 35 minutes’ worth, after the program.

Where did the idea come from?

Like fries, and the best breed of bulldogs — the French. Trump was wildly impressed with the Bastille Day military parade he attended in Paris in July 2017. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” he told French President Emmanuel Macron a few months later. “I came back, and one of my early calls were, I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves. So we’re actually thinking about, Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”

Et voila!

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the Bastille Day parade in Paris on July 14, 2017.Joel Saget / AFP - Getty Images file

Is everybody super psyched about this whole event?

Nope.

So who’s opposed, and what’s their problem?

Plenty of people have raised concerns about this, including the D.C. Council, which tweeted “tanks but no tanks” this week. Politicians in the Maryland and D.C. area have been especially vocal. A few things bother them, including the cost to taxpayers, who are footing the bill for this July Fourth blowout. They also worry the president is politicizing an event that’s typically apolitical — making it more partisan and less patriotic.

Washington’s delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, framed it this way: “The people should resent having any politician co-opt the nation's birthday. That's for them — the American people — and them alone.”

Her message to Trump? “Mr. President, how about a hot dog and a hamburger rather than an extravaganza that divides the country?"

Wait, don’t all presidents celebrate the Fourth of July?

Sure, a lot of presidents participate in the festivities. But only one other president in modern history has taken such an active role. That’s Harry Truman, who delivered a speech in 1951 about the Korean War.

Will the 'Trump Baby' blimp be there?

Looks like it. Protesters hoping to fly that now-infamous balloon, shaped and painted like a diapered Donald Trump, had received preliminary approval to demonstrate near the event.

A National Park Service spokesperson provided NBC News with this update: “The permit has been issued and it does allow the inflation of a cold air balloon.”

A balloon mocking President Donald Trump flies over Parliament Square in London on July 13, 2018.NBC News

What’s the run of show?

The National Independence Day Parade kicks off at 11:45 a.m. The “Salute to America” — the thing the president is doing — starts at 6:30 p.m. and lasts about an hour. After that, at 8 p.m., the Capitol Fourth Concert starts. (That’s a separate event from the president’s, and it’ll be hosted by John Stamos of “Full House” fame. Also, the Muppets will be there!) Fireworks — the grand finale — start shortly after 9 p.m.

Should we care about the weather in Washington on Thursday?

Definitely. The forecast is looking rather grim. The likely rain probably won’t be a huge issue, other than the possibility it dampens turnout. But lightning? That would be a whole other ballgame. It’s not clear what would happen if there’s a ripping thunderstorm. So, stay tuned!

Mosheh Gains and Alex Moe contributed.