President Trump's 'Salute to America' July 4th celebration not without controversy

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WASHINGTON (ABC) -

Parades, picnics and fireworks are hallmark features of July Fourth celebrations.

The nation's capital will still host its traditional National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue and "A Capitol Fourth Concert" at the U.S. Capitol.

There will also be a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence outside the National Archives. Earlier, Vice President Mike Pence spoke inside the National Archives before 44 people were sworn in during a naturalization ceremony.

Pence referred to the new American citizens as examples of how people can follow the lawand go through the process of immigration, adding that "America has the most generous system of legal immigration anywhere in the world."

But this year, President Donald Trump decided to put his own spin on festivities in Washington that some say will politicize a national holiday.

Called a "Salute to America," the events will pay tribute to each of the nation's five service branches with flyovers from military planes and a display of two 60-ton M1 Abrams tanks and two Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The celebration will conclude with a 35-minute fireworks display, the biggest the nation's capital has ever seen.

After tweeting a message wishing everyone a happy Fourth of July on Thursday morning, Trump also wrote about the "Salute to America."

But the new events have prompted controversy and accusations that the president is turning a holiday into a "Make America Great Again" rally. Protests are planned against the president and a permit was granted for protesters to float a giant "Baby Trump" balloon. The now infamous inflatable grabbed headlines when Trump visited London in June.

The president's remarks, set to begin at 6:30 p.m., are not expected to be a political speech, according to a White House official, but instead "it's about saluting America, our flag and our great armed forces."

PHOTO: Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, move a Bradley Fighting Vehicle into place by the Lincoln Memorial, July 3, 2019.

(MORE: Tanks, fighters readied for Trump's July 4th celebration but taxpayer cost not being disclosed)

However, tickets were distributed to allies of the president, including the Republican National Committee, the Trump administration and cabinet officials the week before the event. The Democratic National Committee was not given tickets.

In a statement, the RNC defended their allotment of tickets to what is supposed to be a non-partisan event.

"It's standard practice for the RNC to receive a small number of tickets to events just as the DNC did under Democrat Presidents," according to the statement. "This is routine for events like the White House Christmas Open Houses, Garden Tours in spring and fall, etc."

(MORE: Trump touts tanks to be on display July 4th on National Mall)

Concerns have also been raised about the costs associated with this year's celebration. Event organizers at the Pentagon and Department of Interior haven't revealed exactly how much money will be spent this Fourth of July on everything from the programming to security.

The Washington Post reported that the National Park Service is using nearly $2.5 million in park entrance fees to cover costs, funds that would have been used to do repairs on the nation's parks.

PHOTO: Two Bradley Fighting Vehicles flank the stage being prepared in front of the Lincoln Memorial, July 3, 2019, in Washington D.C., ahead of planned Fourth of July festivities with President Donald Trump.

But on Wednesday, the president said those costs would be "worth it" and tried to downplay the additional costs because "we own the planes, we have the pilots, the airport is right next door (Andrews), all we need is the fuel. We own the tanks and all."

"Fireworks are donated by two of the greats," Trump added.

(MORE: Trump defends cost of July 4th 'Salute to America' event despite extra millions expected)

In the end, the weather may put a damper on the Washington events -- forecasts call for thunderstorms on Independence Day. Still, a spokeswoman for the Department of Interior said that events will take place "rain or shine."

"Visitor safety is always a top priority and we are working with our interagency and law enforcement colleagues to ensure the safety of all who attend, including in the event of inclement weather during the day," Molly Block said in a statement.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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