PBS' "A Capitol Fourth" spectacular from the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
"There wasn't a national birthday party and I thought, 'Why not?' " recalls executive producer Jerry Colbert. "So I thought let's do [a party] for the nation. It's such a beautiful setting."
The first concert consisted of one guest star, Pearl Bailey, performing with the National Symphony Orchestra. Sunday's show features Barry Bostwick, Kenny G, Nell Carter, Maureen McGovern, the Temptations, the U.S. Army Fife & Drum Corps and country singer, Jo Dee Messina.
"It's a huge production," says Colbert. "We cover the whole city. We have a camera at the Lincoln Memorial, one at the Reflecting Pool. We have one at the Washington Monument, one at the White House and 12 at the Capitol.
"We've got cranes and steadicams. Actually, it's kind of L.A.'s gift to the country because most of the people who work on it are from Los Angeles."
The event draws about 500,000 people per year to the Capitol lawn and it's PBS' most popular concert special. "The audience is there all day," he says, "sitting in the sun. There are 50,000 at rehearsal the night before. A lot of the stars . . . are not used to playing for 50,000, never mind at a rehearsal."
Because it's an American celebration, Colbert and his staff highlight patriotic songs, while attempting to make the show different and fun each year. "There's only 10 patriotic songs, so you can't play the same songs in a row every year," he says. "So you have got to come up with a way to do American music."
This year, the special opens with big, patriotic medley anchored by the George M. Cohan favorite, "You're a Grand Old Flag." The Temptations will perform "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Bostwick will do Cohan's "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy."
The Temptations will also perform some of their greatest hits, while Maureen McGovern and Nell Carter pay tribute to composers Hoagy Carmichael and Duke Ellington. Erich Kunzel will conduct the National Symphony Orchestra in a special arrangement of John Williams' score for this summer's "Star Wars" blockbuster, "The Phantom Menace."
The evening will conclude with a huge fireworks display when Kunzel conducts Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and John Philip Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever."
"Everybody is in a great mood and the audience is having a great time," says Colbert. "It's a home town concert with fireworks."
"A Capitol Fourth" airs Sunday at 5 p.m. on KOCE-TV and 8 p.m. on KCET-TV and KVCR-TV.
Here's a look at other holiday programming:
"Camp AMC": Film festival featuring such camp classics as "Abominable Dr. Phibes," "The Swinger" and "Fathom." Sunday at 5 a.m. on AMC.
"Wild Wild Western Weekend" Marathon of such sagebrush sagas as "A Fistfull of Dollars" and "How the West Was Won." Sunday at 7:05 a.m. on TBS.
"Diehard 250": Live coverage of the NASCAR stock car race from the Milwaukee Mile. Sunday at 11 a.m. on TNN.
"Fourth of July Extravaganza": Marathon of special effects flicks: "The Fly," "Backdraft," "Meteorites!" and "Asteroid." Sunday at noon on USA
"SPF 100 Fourth of July Marathon": The stars of "The Upright Citizens Brigade" host a two-day marathon of comedy films such as "Nadine," "Airheads" and "She-Devil." Sunday and Monday at noon on Comedy Central.
"Huntington Beach 4th of July Parade": The largest 4th of July parade west of the Mississippi River features 350 parade entries, film and television personalities, marching bands and equestrian units. Sunday at 3 p.m. on KOCE.
"Blast Masters: The Science of Explosion": Three-part series exploring counter terrorists who develop blast-resistant technologies for planes and buildings, the natural sources of explosive power and the constructive uses of explosion. Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Learning Channel.
"Pop Goes the Fourth! '99": Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra offer a concert of pageantry and patriotism from the Hatch Shell on the banks of Boston's Charles River. Sunday at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m on A&E.;
"John Glenn, American Hero": Updated look at of the life and career of the first American to orbit Earth and the oldest person to travel in space. Sunday at 9:30 p.m. on KCET.
"Macy's 4th of July Fireworks": Holiday fireworks special. Sunday at 11 p.m. on KTLA.
"Twilight Zone Chain Reaction Marathon": Twenty-hour marathon of episodes of the Rod Serling classic anthology. Monday at 7 a.m. on the Sci-Fi Channel.