July Fourth celebration will include East Coast flyovers

FILE - In this July 4, 2019, file photo, fireworks seen from the Lincoln Memorial explode over the Potomac River in Washington. President Donald Trump is moving ahead with a lower-key Salute to America" celebration this year on July Fourth, despite concerns from some lawmakers about the crowds the event could generate during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Andrew Harnik, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Military planes will conduct flyovers in a handful of major cities along the East Coast as part of this year's July Fourth celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pentagon says roughly 1,700 service members will support a salute to the “Great Cities of the American Revolution." The exact timing of the flyovers is still being worked out, but they will begin in Boston and proceed to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

From there, the military planes will join with other aircraft participating in the “Salute to America" over Washington, D.C. Washington has held an Independence Day celebration for decades. President Donald Trump added to the mix of events last year with a speech and a display of tanks and warplanes.

The White House said the president and first lady Melania Trump will host this year's salute from the White House South Lawn and the Ellipse. It said the president will deliver remarks, and the ceremony will include music, military demonstrations and flyovers. Last year, Trump spoke near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The cost to federal taxpayers jumped to more than $13 million for last year's celebration, up from about $6 million to $7 million in previous years, government auditors recently reported. Some Democratic lawmakers have criticized the additional expense to meet what was described as the president's “extravagant demands."

But the Pentagon said that the flyovers provide a chance for the Department of Defense to demonstrate the professionalism of the Armed Forces and that the crews in this year's celebration would have been using those hours for training at other locations if not participating in the flyovers.

Trump plans to kick off Independence Day festivities with a showy display at Mount Rushmore the day before. The event will include fighter jets thundering over the 79-year-old stone monument in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the first fireworks display at the site since 2009.