Preparations Underway on Capitol Hill for Memorial Day Concert

May 21, 2024 by Dan McCue
Preparations Underway on Capitol Hill for Memorial Day Concert
Preparations are well underway for this weekend's National Memorial Day concert. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — The sky smiled Tuesday on workers preparing for this weekend’s annual national Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

As scaffolding and lighting was lifted into place, a pair of American flags waved in a gentle breeze above the tented pavilion that will serve as the evening’s main performance space.

In fact, the glorious weather and the steady hum of activity proved irresistible to tourists and school groups alike, who crowded the approach to the west front of the Capitol to snap photos and the inevitable selfies.

This year’s concert will air live on Sunday May 26, at 8 p.m., with a rebroadcast following immediately at 9:30 p.m.

The Capitol Police Board has not yet officially approved the traffic restriction and road closure plan for this year’s concert, but based on past years, concert attendees can expect closures and parking restrictions on Pennsylvania Avenue in the vicinity of the Capitol as well as on First Street and on Maryland Avenue.

This year is the 35th anniversary of the National Memorial Day Concert. As has become a tradition in recent years, it will be hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, actors who have dedicated themselves to veterans’ causes and supporting the nation’s troops in active service.

This year’s performance will include a World War II tribute featuring “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston.

Billed as “a salute” to the millions of Americans who served the nation in World War II in uniform and on the home front, the performance will commemorate hard fought battles in the Pacific and European theaters in 1944 that secured the allied path to victory. 

As part of this special segment, the concert will share the story of U.S. Army Veteran John T. “Jack” Moran, a soldier in the Battle of the Bulge, and his remembrance of friends who fought alongside him in the European theater.

Tony Award-winning actor and director BD Wong will lead a remembrance of Gold Star families by recalling the story of Vietnam veteran and Gold Star Father Allen Hoe, who followed generations of his family into military service. 

Hoe’s two sons continued the family legacy, serving honorably in the U.S. Army, and First Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe was killed in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

Golden Globe and SAG Award-nominated actress Jena Malone will honor those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, exploring the challenges faced by a generation of wounded, ill and injured veterans who carry visible and invisible wounds of war.

Malone will tell the story of U.S. Marine Corps veteran and amputee Kirstie Ennis, an adaptive athlete who carries with her the memory of her fallen brothers and sisters in arms. 

The concert will share her journey after a life-changing injury on deployment, and her mission to bring awareness and encourage others to reach out for help.

Other performers on the night’s bill include Cynthia Erivo, Gary LeVox, Jamey Johnson, Mary McCormack, Ruthie Ann Miles, Patina Miller, the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly — who will be celebrating 15 seasons with the concert.

And no National Memorial Day concert would be complete without the Salute to Services with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Typically food items and beach/camp chairs that sit low to the ground are allowed into the concert, and guests are encouraged to bring their own water as the National Mall tends to get very hot over Memorial Day weekend.

The following items are typically prohibited, though other items also may be prohibited at the discretion of security screeners:

  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Glass bottles.
  • Animals (other than service animals).
  • Bicycles and motorized scooters of any kind, though devices required for accessibility (ADA) will be accommodated.
  • Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated).
  • Explosives of any kind, including fireworks.
  • Knives, blades or sharp objects of any length.
  • Laser pointers, signs or posters.
  • Mace and pepper spray.
  • Sticks and poles.
  • Electric stun guns.
  • Martial arts weapons or devices.
  • Umbrellas larger than 36″ in diameter (umbrellas smaller than 36″ will be allowed).
  • Pocket or hand tools such as a Leatherman.
  • Sealed packages, large boxes, duffle bags and suitcases.
  • Drones, model rockets, remote or manually controlled model gliders, model airplanes or unmanned aircrafts, model boats and/or cars, and other unmanned ground or aircraft systems.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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