America celebrates July 4 with hot dogs and barbecues amid tightened security

Possible security threats, wildfires and rainy weather did little to dampen the spirits of celebrants


Reuters July 05, 2015
Fireworks light up the New York City skyline during 39th annual Macy's 4th of July fireworks for Independence day as seen from Weehawken, New Jersey on July 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK: Americans marched in star-spangled parades, ran relay races, gathered for fireworks shows and crowned a new world hot dog eating champion as they celebrated Independence Day in traditional style on Saturday.


Fireworks explode behind the US Capitol and the Washington Monument in celebration of Independence Day in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Possible security threats, wildfires in the West and rainy weather on the East Coast apparently did little to dampen the spirits of celebrants decked out in red, white and blue from their headbands to their shoelaces.

Read: PM felicitates Obama on US Independence Day

Crowds at Boston's Old State House erupted in applause and cannons shot out tri-color confetti after the annual July Fourth reading of the Declaration of Independence.


A young man carries the US flag honoring Independence Day as he walks on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015.  PHOTO: AFP

Later, thousands flocked to the Charles River Esplanade for the annual Boston Pops concert and fireworks. Krystle O'Brien, 27, wore an American flag cowboy hat and passed out glowsticks.

"It's a good day for Boston," she said. "There's so much history here, we can celebrate this freedom."


Fireworks illuminate the sky over Manhattan on July 4, 2015 in New York to celebrate Independence Day. PHOTO: AFP

In Maplewood, New Jersey, Meskie Hyman, 11, exuded patriot pride in a star-spangled shirt and a hairband with two American flags that fluttered under cloudy skies.

"I love that it's a free country and we have the right to speak. It lets us see everyone's potential and find our heroes," she said.


A man looks trough his room window as Willard Hotel facade is decorated with US flags marking Independence Day in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

The crowd in Washington, D.C. watched a parade of brass bands, law enforcement motorcycle units, high school drum majorettes, antique cars and police and military detachments.

The National Mall, an open area west of the Capitol and site of a fireworks display expected to draw hundreds of thousands, was soggy from steady rain that had stopped by the time the parade started.


US President Barack Obama (R) beside US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) during an Independence Day celebration for military members and their families on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP


US First Lady Michelle Obama (C) greets performer Bruno Mars (L) as US President Barack Obama (R) arrives on stage to speak at an Independence Day celebration for military members and their families on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. PHOTO: AFP

Kearston Andrews, 26, traveled with her family from near Gainesville, Florida, unworried about security.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert this week asking local authorities and the public to remain vigilant for possible threats following recent calls for violence by leaders of radical group Islamic State.


Four New York Police Department (NYPD) helicopters fly over Manhattan before the fireworks display on July 4, 2015 in New York to celebrate Independence Day. PHOTO: AFP

In New York City, the nation's biggest police force assigned about 7,000 officers and nearly all its counterterrorism personnel to handle security around Independence Day events.

No incidents were reported as of late Saturday, but tens of thousands of spectators crowded onto the banks of Manhattan's East River to watch fireworks shot from barges.


People watch the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks from Brooklyn Bridge Park on July 4, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. PHOTO: AFP

Even after promising an increased presence at weekend events, Massachusetts State Police maintained a holiday spirit, tweeting with a colloquial Boston phrase early Saturday "Have a wicked safe 4th of July!"

In a stunning upset on Coney Island, 23-year-old newcomer Matt Stonie grabbed the famed mustard-colored champion's belt after gobbling 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes in the annual Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest.


Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial in celebration of Independence Day in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Read: US Supreme Court rules in favour of gay marriage nationwide

Stonie, of San Jose, California, ousted long-time champion Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who still holds a world record of 69 franks eaten in 2013. Miki Sudo hung onto the women's title, downing 38 hotdogs in 10 minutes.

Wildfires and sharks

On the US West Coast, which is battling wildfires, communities in Washington state and Oregon restricted or banned fireworks for fear of more blazes. Cupertino, California, and Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, also canceled firework shows.


Fireworks explode over the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the US Capitol in celebration of Independence Day in Washington, DC on July 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

In downtown Los Angeles, thousands of revelers poured into Grand Park to enjoy music and food before a fireworks show.

“I’m Mexican, so I’m thankful to be born here, and being able to celebrate your heritage but mix with the diversity of other cultures too,” said Erica Moussa.

A celebration in Austin, Texas featured country music legend Willie Nelson at an all-day picnic replete with music and drinking.

And in Oklahoma, the record to beat at the "Watermelon Seed Spittin' World Championship" in Pauls Valley, about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Oklahoma City, was 66 feet, 11 inches (20.41 meters), set in 1989 by Jack Dietz of Chicago, organizers said.

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