date published: June 21, 2004


various locations
June 30-July 5

Hatch Memorial Shell
July 4

Birthdays are always cause for celebration, and as our country prepares to commemorate its special day, Bostonians are ready to show the world that the birthplace of the American Revolution still knows how to party. The 4th of July in Boston is always a grand occasion-perhaps the premier Independence Day celebration in the nation. And with a great line-up of entertainment and activities scheduled, this year is no different.

Boston was at the heart of the Revolution, and still reigns as the leader in patriotic fervor. The 23rd annual Boston Harborfest, June 30-July 5, boasts over 200 events, including historical reenactments, tours, harbor cruises and concerts.

Another one of Boston's best-known traditions, the annual Boston Pops concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade, attracts hoards of spectators to the banks of the Charles River. This year, in addition to the usual musical and fireworks extravaganza, the winner of POPSearch 2004 will finally be unveiled. Inspired by the rabid popularity of "American Idol," the POPSearch contest began with the open audition of hundreds of aspirants earlier this month, all vying for a chance to perform as a vocal soloist for the masses on the Fourth of July. The contest concludes at a Pops concert on June 29 at Symphony Hall when the victor is chosen from three finalists by a panel of local celebrity judges. Then the winner gets to fulfill his or her dream of singing with the Pops on the big day-in front of about 500,000 onlookers!

And speaking of stiff competition, be prepared for some flying elbows and firey gamesmanship, as many concertgoers line up at dawn to stake their claim to one of the 8,000 coveted lawn spots in front of the concert stage on Independence Day. Marking the concert's finale, Boston is treated to an awe-inspiring firework display, ringing in the 4th in true Revolutionary spirit.
With so much going on, it's easy to get lost in the action, so here's a handy guide to help you stay ahead of the game.

Wednesday, June 30
The Boston Harborfest Opening Ceremonies kick off at noon at Faneuil Hall. A greeting from Mayor Thomas Menino and a giant birthday cake honoring our nation get things started, followed by a concert by Four Guys in Tuxes, music by the Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes and Drums and an appearance by the Color Guard from the U.S.S. Constitution.

Thursday, July 1
It's the 10th annual Children's Day! From 10 a.m.-3 p.m., City Hall Plaza is transformed into a circus of jugglers, face painting, puppet shows and live music. The event is designed to educate and entertain children, giving them the chance to celebrate their nations birth. It's free and fun for both kids and their parents.

Friday, July 2
Come on down to City Hall Plaza to enjoy a free Noontime Concert featuring the cast of the musical blockbuster Mamma Mia belting out your favorite ABBA tunes until 3 p.m. Afterward, enjoy a Sunset Parade at the Charlestown Navy Yard adjacent to the U.S.S. Constitution from 7-8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 3
Still have a hankering for some red, white and blue fun? Then head to City Hall Plaza for another Noontime Concert, this time with the sultry ladies of the vocal quartet Jada. Later in the evening, return for the Party on the Plaza from 6-10 p.m., highlighted by the reggae-tinged music of On the Drop and Cambridge-based rockers Reckless Daughter. Those who like their music really old school, head to Old City Hall instead as the Middlesex County Volunteer Fifes and Drums bring the music of Revolutionary War-era America to life from 7-8:30 p.m. Then at 8:30 p.m. on the Esplanade, the Boston Pops give a sneak peek of the 4th of July fun that is sure to get things pumping for the birthday revelry the next day.

Sunday, July 4
The big bash starts off bright and early with a 9 a.m. flag raising ceremony on City Hall Plaza followed by a short parade. Down by the water, witness the annual U.S.S. Constitution turnaround cruise around the harbor. You can watch from land or board one of several excursions planned by various local cruise lines from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Listen for the ship's 21 Gun Salute to the Nation as she floats near Castle Island, followed by a 19-gun salute to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from Fort Independence at 12:05 p.m. You can also hear a reading of the Declaration of Independence from 10-10:30 a.m. from the balcony of the Old State House, where it was first read aloud in Boston 227 years ago. Nearby, the Noontime Concert series at City Hall Plaza concludes with blues singer Chrissy Cerretani.

Although these events are worthwhile, many diehards head straight to the Esplanade at sunrise to reserve a patch of grass for the annual Fourth of July on the Esplanade featuring the Boston Pops Orchestra's "Pops Goes the Fourth" concert at 8:30 p.m. There fans can relax and picnic while listening to recorded music all day long in anticipation of the Pops concert. Even if you aren't lucky enough to snag a spot close to the stage, there are 30 sound towers and four Sony JumboTron screens lining the Charles River to assure that no one misses out on the show. Special guests, including the big POPSearch winner, are sure to dazzle the masses with their musical prowess. The concert concludes with the standard songs: John Philip Sousa's "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. The grand finale arrives with a bang as fireworks light up the sky at 10:30 p.m.

Monday, July 5
Got room for more 4th of July festivities? Then Boston's annual Chowderfest should satisfy as over 2,000 gallons of New England's favorite soup are ladled out for chowda aficionados' stamp of approval. The competition takes place at City Hall Plaza from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

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Hatch Memorial Shell on the
Charles River Esplanade

July 3
8:30 p.m.-Pops Goes the 4th! Preview concert.

July 4
Noon-Afternoon of recorded music begins (arrive early to get those prime spots!).

8:30 p.m.-Boston Pops Fourth of July
concert. The Boston Pops and conductor Keith Lockhart bring you patriotic favorites and light classics by your favorite composers.

approx. 10:30 p.m.-Fireworks at conclusion of the Pops concert.

For more information:

  • Opening Ceremonies
    June 30 from noon-12:30 p.m.
    Faneuil Hall
  • 10th Annual Children's Day
    July 1 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
    City Hall Plaza
  • Party on the Plaza
    July 3 from 6-10 p.m.
    City Hall Plaza, North Stage
    (rain date: July 5 from 6-10 p.m.)
  • Middlesex County Volunteers Fifes
    and Drums concert
    July 3 from 7-8:30 p.m.
    Courtyard at Old City Hall
  • Reading of the Declaration of Independence
    July 4 from 10-10:30 a.m.
    Balcony of the Old State House
  • U.S.S. Constitution turnaround cruise
    and 21-gun salute to the nation
    July 4 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Charlestown Navy Yard to Castle Island
  • 23rd Annual Chowderfest
    July 5 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
    City Hall Plaza

For more information: