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Fanfare and fireworks: celebrating the 4th in Boston

Aerosmith’s Tyler and Perry to headline concert

Everyone should experience Boston’s Fourth of July celebration at least once, and with clear skies predicted for Independence Day, this should be a great year to spend at the Esplanade.

The 33-year-old event features performances by the Boston Pops Orchestra, special celebrity guests, and of course, a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River to the stirring strains of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture — complete with cannon fire.

After years of negotiation, hometown favorites Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith are scheduled to headline the event. The evening will be hosted by Phil McGraw, better known as television’s Dr. Phil.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that Boston’s two favorite bands really needed to join forces for this event,” Pops conductor Keith Lockhart told the Boston Globe last week. “I’m so happy we finally get to do it this year.”

The city’s celebration is now world famous — more than 500,000 people attend each year, and the last hour is televised nationally on CBS. In 1973, however, the Pops was facing declining interest in its summertime concerts on the Esplanade. Philanthropist (and executive producer of Boston’s celebration) David Mugar suggested that the 1812 Overture would drum up interest, and the following year, Arthur Fiedler, beloved longtime Pops conductor, added cannons, church bells, and fireworks to the concert, hoping, he said, that “all hell could break loose.”

Now the event is so popular that although the show officially begins at 8:30 p.m., anyone hoping to get a good view of the performers needs to arrive early — ideally, about 12 hours early. The Oval, the grassy area closest to the Hatch Shell, where the Pops performs, opens at 9 a.m., and the area reaches capacity within three to four hours. (People used to camp out for prime spots, but that’s no longer allowed.)

Spending the entire day — and evening — on the grass is an important part of the tradition, but it’s best to be prepared. Click here for some tips and recommendations.