Boston Pops Fourth of July concert. One of my favorite and most anticipated moments during the Boston Pops Fourth of July event at the Esplanade is not what you might expect. The spectacular post-concert fireworks? The howitzer cannons booming and the church bells pealing during the "1812 Overture?" The glitzy performance by the headlining guest act? All of these and other highlights are important and cherished parts of the annual production.

Call me old fashioned, but the moment I wait for every year occurs during the playing of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." Towards the end of the song, the tempo dramatically slows, the tension builds, and just as Maestro Keith Lockhart signals the orchestra to kick back in fortissimo...wait for it...a large flag above the stage unfurls. That's it. It's a low tech and kind of cheesy throwback to the vaudeville era. And yet it works. In its simplicity it manages to stir the audience, focus on the theme of Independence Day, and encapsulate the spirit of the event -- and really the spirit of the city.

Washington, D.C. has its bickering politicians; New York City has its Broadway sophistication; Los Angeles has its movie culture. But Boston has a sense of history and authenticity. We embrace, celebrate, and honor tradition. Heck, the entire Boston Pops Fourth of July extravaganza, one of our signature events, is an unabashedly patriotic tribute to the birth of our nation featuring an orchestra that was founded in 1885. Much of the music dates back to the 19th century. Sure, it's been gussied up for network television and has plenty of contemporary touches. But I'd argue that one of the key moments occurs when Old Glory triumphantly appears amid the spirited rendition of the 1897 Sousa march. Come see the flag unfurl for yourself.

The Boston Pops Fourth of July is one of the many Summer Selects events and activities we've hand-picked for you. There are plenty of other things to do, including Harborfest during Independence Day week. We'd love to have you join us. Photo: Bill Brett. Boston 4 Productions.