(NEW YORK) — For many people in the post-pandemic world, this will be quite a different Fourth of July; in many areas, gatherings of large groups are still forbidden, and so even backyard Independence Day parties have been dashed. 

The same social distancing rules apply for PBS’ annual star-studded salute to the country, A Capitol Fourth. This year’s 40th annual event will be hosted by Vanessa Williams and John Stamos, and all the performances were pre-shot remotely. Live fireworks from Washington D.C. will be added when the show airs on July 4. 

“It’s not on the West Lawn this year,” Williams tells ABC Audio. “John Stamos and I shot across the street, so the Capitol was behind us, but we were on the top. We socially distanced.”

Williams herself will perform two songs, which she chose specifically. “We can’t ignore what’s going on in the United States at this point,” she noted. “There’s been a tipping point and everyone feels very deeply at the moment. So I did a song that I dedicated to all the mothers, ‘Not While I’m Around,’ which basically is, ‘No one’s gonna hurt you. Not while I’m around.’ …And it’s segues into ‘Somewhere,’ which is [from] my very favorite musical of all time, West Side Story. It addresses the heartache. It addresses the issue. And it also addresses the message of hope and unity, which we’re all feeling now.”  

This year’s festivities will also feature a tribute to our nation’s workers on the frontlines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a salute to contributions of African American heroes from our nation’s past and present, presented by Williams. 

A Capitol Fourth starts at 8 p.m. ET, Saturday night on PBS.

By Stephen Iervolino
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