In the 2006 special, Elmo was one of the headline guests. He arrived onstage riding a tricycle, and singing "Riding My Tricycle". He then sang "How Do You Do?" with Vanessa Williams after establishing that he couldn't greet everyone at the event individually. He invited a group of children onstage for a song about imagination with Hoots the Owl on saxophone. Finally, he sang "Happy Birthday to You" to America with the orchestra.
In the 2009 special, Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Rosita, and Abby Cadabby appeared to not only celebrate the nation's 233rd birthday, but also Sesame Street's 40th. The group was introduced by President Barack Obama.
Conductor Erich Kunzel invited Big Bird to lead the National Symphony Orchestra in a short rendition of "Ode to Joy", after which the bird sang "Sunny Days" to the crowd. The entire group then performed a medley of Sesame Street songs: Elmo sang "Elmo's Song", Oscar sang "I Love Trash", Abby Cadabby sang "Somebody Come and Play", and Cookie Monster sang "C is for Cookie", leading up to Rosita's bilingual performance of "Sing" together with singer Natasha Bedingfield. While the cast of Muppets (sans Big Bird) sang back-up on each character's individual song, the entire group joined in on Bedingfield's rendition of "Yankee Doodle Boy". Big Bird finished the medley off by leading the group to "You're a Grand Old Flag".
Due to high chances of rain on July 4, the show's producers wanted a clean take at the dress rehearsal on July 3, and the show was performed twice.
The special, which was hosted by Jimmy Smits, also featured performances by Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, the cast of the Broadway musical Jersey Boys, and pianists Michael Feinstein and Andrew von Oeyen.
- Florida Sun-Sentinel: An interview with Elmo about PBS' A Capitol Fourth, originally published in The Washington Post in 2006
- Focus on Elmo's 2006 appearance at "A Capitol Fourth" website
- Audio interview with Elmo and Big Bird at "A Capitol Fourth" website, 2009