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story.lead_photo.caption Kelly Clarkson rehearses for Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular airing live from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday.

Happy 242nd birthday, America! You look marvelous -- not a day over 220. Maybe 225.

Wednesday commemorates the Continental Congress' formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, (they actually voted to do it on July 2). The Declaration announced to the world that the 13 colonies were henceforth a spanking new nation -- the United States of America.

America celebrates the day with baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, parades, political speechifying, patriotic concerts and, of course, fireworks. Lots of fireworks.

If you enjoy fireworks, then you can thank John Adams, who was the vice president at the time.

On July 3, 1776, Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, saying he believed the day "will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. ... It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."

And that, boys and girls, is why we have two big pyrotechnic TV "shews" on Wednesday -- A Capitol Fourth and Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.

Of course, all the cool kids will be down in Little Rock's River Market and the First Security Bank Amphitheater on Wednesday for the 35th annual Democrat-Gazette Pops on the River beginning at 3 p.m. The event is free and there will be plenty of family friendly stuff to do.

For those who don't care to share their Independence Day with 30,000 hot and sweaty fellow Arkansans, there's always television. And, as usual, we have dueling specials Wednesday evening. Fortunately, each will encore immediately, so you can channel your inner John Adams and indulge yourself all evening long.

If you want to watch only one special, compare the guest list and pick your favorite.

Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular airs live from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday with a one-hour highlights encore at 9.

This will be the 42nd annual Macy's fireworks display over New York's East River and features more than 75,000 shells and effects launched from seven barges positioned near midtown. That makes it Macy's largest fireworks display since the Millennial Celebration in 2000.

Musical guests include Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin, Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, the West Point Band and West Point Glee Club.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," Clarkson will perform her new recording of the classic accompanied by the band and glee club.

The cadets will also share their renditions of such patriotic classics as "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Another highlight will be the special's "Golden Mile" -- an array of golden-hued effects stretching for a mile along the waterfront.

Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila from American Ninja Warrior return as co-hosts.

Trivia: Can you pronounce Akbar's Nigerian last name? The 39-year-old Los Angeles native says, the G is silent. Then phonetically it's "bah-jah-beeuh-meel-lah." Simple. It means "big man come save me."

• A Capitol Fourth, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday on AETN. It all started in 1979, but PBS first aired the concert from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in 1981. Consequently, it has become the highest-rated show on PBS.

John Stamos returns as host with musical performances by Jimmy Buffett and the Broadway cast of Escape to Margaritaville, Andy Grammer, The Beach Boys, Chita Rivera, Renee Fleming, Kyla Jade, Pentatonix, The Temptations, Luke Combs, Lauren Alaina, CeCe Winans and violinist Joshua Bell.

The concert also features the National Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," and the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets.

My favorite part is the big fireworks finale with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" complete with cannons. Don't worry -- they're firing blanks.

A complete 90-minute encore follows at 8:30.

• Civilizations finale airs at 7 p.m. today on PBS and AETN.

The episode is titled "What Is Art (Good For)?" and explores art in the age of revolution, war and scientific change.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

Style on 07/03/2018

Print Headline: Pyrotechnics and patriotism fill the air on the 4th

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