Although I wasn't too involved with the planning, I got to watch and learn as the rest of the team planned every detail of the event at regular meetings. Where to get fences, where they'd be installed, and who would do the installation? Who was going to play on stage? How to manage security? There is so much to do.
Thankfully, I felt much more comfortable in my media role than as a planner. As part of my job for the 4th, I wrote a public service announcement. I joined up with a videographer from the regional office - within walking distance of our office - and recorded the audio and video at George Mason Memorial between aircraft landing at Reagan Airport. I felt pretty good about the recording, but it turned out that the lens fogged over because of the humidity and the footage was unusable. The audio was re-recorded in the studio so I didn't make the final cut. That's show business. The video team did all the work putting the film together and I thought it looked really nice when it was all said and done. Watch the public service announcement.
I had a hand in editing the press release and I attended the press conference at the Netherlands Carillon prior to the event, which mostly dealt with logistics and visitor safety. I also produced some informational materials for the ranger staff to use the day of the event. I also had a hand in developing recycling messaging that will continue to appear throughout the park and in a couple of Metro stops.
Other than that, my work was pretty much done by the time the event came around. On the 4th, I had my own golf cart (with my name on it!), which I used to tool down the closed streets to get to the places I needed to be. It was fun going the wrong way down usually busy streets. I never made it to the parade; I was stymied by the fences at every turn.
A couple of days before the 4th, my coworkers asked me to participate in the "Vignettes" part of the stage production, sandwiched between the Air Force Band and Jo Dee Messina. All I had to do was read some announcements, a role that might have been brought about by joking around with my baseball announcer cadence: It's a high fly ball to left center field, he's back, way back, at the warning track and he MAKES the grab! So although public speaking is part of the job, and I've given programs to over 100 people at a time before, this was something else.
Peeking out from backstage, a view of a tiny sliver of the crowd.
A view from the production RV / "Green (and Gray) Room"
I helped put out some fires in the afternoon, such as writing some last minute lines for the announcer, scratching them out on a piece of yellow, lined paper in my best handwriting. Otherwise, there was a lot of waiting around as we waited to get our mic levels adjusted on stage and then for the Air Force Band to play its set. When it was our turn to go on, I wasn't particularly nervous, but I also tried hard not to look up at the crowd. The whole program went well, to everyone's relief. The crowd responded well, clapping and cheering. The only glitch was that my podium mic didn't come on when I first went out, so the stage manager had to bring out a replacement.
The vignettes team - Don, Jasmin, Jeff, Chris, and Nicole - portrayed moments of self-doubt and crisis in the nation's history and the positive outcomes of those crises.
I stuck around after our vignette to assist any way I could, since I didn't have to be anywhere and I seemed to be useful in the stage area. Jo Dee Messina played her set. While the audience was enjoying that, rangers in the production RV were counting down to the fireworks using an electronic timing system that syncs up the music and the fireworks launch. It was fun to be in the RV as the coordinators counted down the seconds for the other production personnel from the launch site all the way to the Capitol grounds (there were two separate concerts going on), and so I was in a unique position to listen to the actual countdown and watch the first shots go up. The live music wound down just as the first shots launched.
Rangers Don and Jeff count down the seconds in the final minute of the countdown.
With the fireworks underway, there was a mini-celebration and round of congratulations inside the production RV. Then we all ran out to enjoy the show. It was the most impressive display of fireworks I have ever seen.
Of course, a couple of pictures doesn't do it justice. I found plenty of videos on Youtube, but the best I found of the finale so far was this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2IKDSJkPps. I asked the Pyro Boss what he meant by "A finale that will knock your socks off," which is what he said at the press conference. I told him I was sworn to secrecy, but I wondered what exactly that meant. He told me it was 45 projectiles every second for the last 30 seconds. During the show, the concussion from the blasts actually made my clothes move.
Think I can breathe a sigh of relief? Not yet. We've got the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial next month.
Here's a rundown of the Independence Day event in the Washington Post.