What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The father-son team who make a Capitol Fourth pop

This year marks the 35th anniversary of an iconic Fourth of July tradition: fireworks and music on the National Mall. To celebrate this milestone, the NewsHour introduces you to the father and son who put the show together.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    One of the great Independence Day traditions is the celebration and fireworks right here in Washington on the National Mall.

    And, tomorrow night, PBS will showcase it once again on “A Capitol Fourth.” It’s the 35th anniversary of the program, and we have a behind- the-scenes look at the father-son team who put it all together.

  • JERRY COLBERT, Executive Producer, “A Capitol Fourth”:

    John Adams said right at the Declaration of Independence it should be celebrated every year with fireworks and bonfires and parties and sports. And that was 239 years ago. And we’re continuing that tradition.

    My name is Jerry Colbert. I’m the executive producer of “A Capitol Fourth” for the last 35 years.

  • MICHAEL COLBERT, Co-Executive Producer, “A Capitol Fourth”:

    And I’m Michael Colbert, the co-executive producer and the proud son of Jerry Colbert.

  • JERRY COLBERT:

    I got involved in this 35 years ago. The symphony had just begun a series of concerts here. And I went to them and we wanted to do a television show for the country.

    But it’s one year at a time I came back. I didn’t plan it. I had no idea it would go on this long.

    Now we get 20 cameras and the best equipment in the business. And we cover the whole Mall and make it into — like a World’s Fair experience.

    The general public doesn’t understand how much work it is.

  • MICHAEL COLBERT:

    It’s a yearlong process, by the time we come up with the ideas, booking with stars, doing the publicity, everything else related to it.

    But once we get to this point here at the Capitol, there’s over 500 of us working, between all the musicians in the National Symphony, the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the military groups, the production crew, the staff, the events staff. It’s a major undertaking.

  • JERRY COLBERT:

    Now, the weather hasn’t always cooperated. We have had several huge rainstorms.

    We had one with the Pointer Sisters where we had one inch of rain in a little over an hour. And I said to them, ladies, I said, you have got to save the show. And I said, do you think you can get out there and do it? And they said, don’t you worry about it, honey. We will take care of it.

    And they went out and they put on a heck of a show. And everybody was up sing and dancing and totally drenched. And it saved the day.

    There’s a real wonder because of this, and that everybody’s an American, left, right, center. And they are all celebrating our country. And I think that’s wonderful byproduct of this whole event.

  • MICHAEL COLBERT:

    To be able to be here and to forget our differences for 90 minutes on the Fourth of July and to celebrate who we are makes it pretty special.

    But after working so many months and so many hours, we sure do appreciate July 5, don’t we?

  • JERRY COLBERT:

    Yes.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    That’s “A Capitol Fourth” tomorrow night on PBS. Check your local listings.

Listen to this Segment

Latest News