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This will be the 25th consecutive year the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra has held its free Fourth of July concert at the mall of the state Capitol.

Since 1995, sky-watchers have gathered at the Capitol Mall for a massive fireworks display and the rousing, patriotic music of the symphony. The concert attracts thousands of people, not many of whom know how big of a production it actually is.

"The symphony actually puts on the entire event," Executive Director Mike Gardner said. "It's a great opportunity for us to give back to the community."

The symphony coordinates everything from the music to the portable toilets to the use of walkie-talkies to communicate when to start the fireworks.

The symphony starts playing about an hour before the fireworks display and continues throughout. This makes it difficult for Beverly Everett, music director and conductor, who has to signal to a person with a two-way radio when to start the fireworks.

The fireworks last about 20 minutes, so Everett said she picks out about 20 minutes of music, despite not knowing precisely when the grand finale will be.

"It's just all sheer luck," she said.

Twenty-five years of the concert may not seem like a long time to the symphony, which was established in 1976.

Still, the concert is a major collaboration with the fireworks company, the State Fire Marshal's office, the Bismarck Police Department and other entities, organizations and sponsors, according to Gardner.

"We couldn't do it without (our sponsors)," he said, noting that the city of Bismarck pays for the fireworks and Burleigh County reimburses some of the expenses.

Everett said organizers try to bring in new local artists each year and showcase different types of music. For instance, last year, they brought in a rock band. The symphony also plays patriotic favorites such as the "Armed Forces Salute."

"In planning the music, I try to make it so it's not the same every year and yet there is that familiarity," Everett said.

Guest artists this year include former Burning Hills singer Brandon Box-Higdem and Medora's "Queen of the West," Emily Walter. The preconcert performer is local musician and songwriter Shawn Oban.

Despite all of the planning that goes into the Fourth of July concert each year, Everett said the event is still a symphony favorite.

"It's really special," she said.

The preconcert will start at 8 p.m., followed by the symphony at 8 p.m. Fireworks will begin once the sun sets.

For more information, visit www.bismarckmandansymphony.org.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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