Live performances, a clam chowder bonanza and firework displays setting the Boston skyline ablaze — Boston Harborfest has it all.

The annual Independence Day festival returns for its 42nd year with both novel attractions and time-honored traditions that celebrate Boston’s revolutionary history. Boston Harborfest boasted more than 400,000 attendees in 2023, and this year organizers are counting on a lucky stroke of warm weather to turn out even more visitors.

Festivities kicked off in Downtown Crossing on Monday when, around noon, workers began shifting a multi-layered marble cake out from a freezer truck to serve hundreds of spectators. Organizers buzzed with a palpable excitement as a USS Constitution saber sliced into the cake.

New to Boston Harborfest this year is a beer garden at Summer and Washington streets in Downtown Crossing, open 4-8 p.m. Monday and 2-8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Downtown Crossing is the perfect location to have people gather. It’s a very natural sort of crossroads of history and culture in the city,” said Jennifer Astin, a spokesperson for the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District, one of Harborfest’s sponsors.

Also new to this year’s celebrations — although more out of serendipity than strategy — are several events commemorating Boston’s first Navy Week since 2012. Sailors and civilians can intermingle at the Navy Block Party on Wednesday afternoon and curious festival-goers can peer into the history of the U.S. Navy at the Navy Week Expo over the weekend at Christopher Columbus Park.

Devotees will recognize a familiar lineup of activities, including fan-favorite Chowderfest. Visitors can sample soups Tuesday at 2 p.m. in this friendly competition between local restaurants vying to become titleholders of the best clam chowder.

“There’s a lot of hype. There’s a lot of good competitive spirit, and there’s a lot of great chowder,” said Astin.

Harborfest comes to a close on July 4 with a series of other fixtures. The city’s Fourth of July procession begins at 9 a.m. at City Hall Plaza and ends with a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House. At 1:30 p.m. that day, a joyous medley of African drums, dance and gospel performances will backdrop a reading of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

“The reading is incredibly stirring, it’s incredibly memorable, it’s my pinnacle event,” said George Comeau, who manages destination events for Downtown Boston BID. “The time of the Civil War still resonates today, and that’s both amazing and sad. It provides everybody with the opportunity to really take a second look and understand what America means.”

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday.

All events are listed on the official Boston Harborfest schedule.