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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4,000 Shows, No Rain for City Day

MTDrivers in heavy rain Thursday passing under one of hundreds of banners strung across city streets for Moscow's 856th birthday.
This weekend promises traffic restrictions, cloud seeding, loud live music, sports competitions and a city center packed with cheerful crowds. The occasion: Mayor Yury Luzhkov's favorite holiday, City Day.

For the 10th year running, downtown Moscow will be turned into a pedestrian zone Saturday and Sunday with hundreds of pop, rock and folk singers performing in some 4,000 shows.

Since Moscow is only celebrating its 856th birthday -- not a particularly landmark year such as St. Petersburg's 300th birthday several months ago -- the extravaganza will be rather moderate this year, city officials said.

"This weekend should feel like a special one for everyone in town," said Alexander Pudin, spokesman for Deputy Mayor Lyudmila Shvetsova, who is in charge of the celebrations.

The festivities start at noon Saturday with a ceremony attended by Luzhkov opposite City Hall on Tverskaya Ploshchad followed by a costume show. Concerts and theatrical shows will then kick off at most downtown squares and at parks around the city.

Red Square, which has been closed for most of July and all of August, will host the highlight of the weekend, a lavish light and music show by Gert Hof, a German director who once arranged light and sound for rock groups like Rammstein. Before the finale, the Scorpions rock group and Thomas Anders of Modern Talking fame will play the square. Tickets for the show, which starts at 7:30 p.m., cost from 500 rubles ($16) to 10,000 rubles. A crowd of 20,000 people is expected.

Aficionados of bard music can stop by Pushkin Square to listen to two masters of the genre, Oleg Mityayev and Sergei Nikitin, performing at a concert starting at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Some 6,000 police and Interior Ministry troops will be deployed to maintain security, a police spokeswoman said.

Pudin said the city is spending 13.5 million rubles ($440,000) on the holiday, and corporate sponsors are providing 40 million rubles.

In contrast to previous City Days, city fathers are not scrambling to complete any grandiose construction projects ahead of the holiday. "This year it was decided that there was no need to rush to finish something for City Day," Pudin said. For that reason, a 2-kilometer section of the Third Ring Road and a huge public swimming pool will not be unveiled as earlier planned, he said.

Still, at least one construction project has been completed in time for City Day. The Moscow Zoo will present to the public Saturday a new elephant house that took almost a year to build, zoo spokesman Yelena Mendosa said.

Three Asian elephants, who have lived for seven years in temporary premises, walked into the spacious new house at a ceremony attended by the mayor Thursday.

Environmentalists have their own special gift for Muscovites suspicious of the quality of tap water. On Sunday, they will unveil a new natural spring in the eastern Staroye Sviblovo district.

To make sure that the party is not spoiled by the almost daily downpours that have been soaking the city in recent days, nine military planes will take to the sky above Moscow to seed the clouds, an air force spokesman told Interfax.

Rain or shine, drivers will find getting to the city center a major headache. Most downtown streets will be closed off for most of the weekend.