NEW YORK – With dazzling fireworks and backyard barbecues, Americans celebrated Independence Day with traditions that expressed pride in their country’s 242nd birthday.
But this quintessential American holiday was marked with a sense of a United States divided for some. There were even competing televised events in the nation’s capital, and patriotism mingled with an immigration policy protest that shut down the Statue of Liberty.
From New York to California, July Fourth festivities were stately and traditional, lively and lighthearted. Parades lined streets across the country, new citizens were sworn in and the world’s oldest commissioned warship fired a 21-gun salute. The annual Macy’s fireworks show splashed sparkle on the New York skyline, and a new record was set in the Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest.
In some Western states, however, high wildfire danger forced communities to cancel fireworks displays.
Some holiday highlights:
Lighting up the night skies
The sparkling, booming spectacle of the Macy’s fireworks show painted New York’s skies with patriotic pride as thousands upon thousands of people watched along the city’s East River.
The crowd oohed, cheered, snapped pictures and clapped loudly enough to be heard above the blasts of 75,000 shells and effects over 25 minutes. Before the pyrotechnics, artists including Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban performed on NBC’s broadcast.
Adam Lugo went to the riverfront from Harlem, as he does every year with his wife and young son.
“It doesn’t matter who the president is, Obama or Trump, today is a day where people of all races, colors, creeds can come together and celebrate what makes us great, not what divides us,” Lugo said.
Still, some others in the crowd were there with mixed feelings about the holiday.
“Immigrants are being detained. It’s not a happy holiday for everyone,” Veronica Kupper said.
The country’s longest-running live national July Fourth television tradition is PBS’ broadcast of music and fireworks from the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn. But it faced new counterprogramming this year from the White House, which hosted its own concert and view of the National Park Service’s fireworks show.
PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” had the bigger stars, including The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Pentatonix, Chita Rivera, Luke Combs and The Temptations. It was hosted by John Stamos.
The entertainers on the 90-minute White House event airing on the Hallmark Channel included singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and two former “American Idol” finalists.
First lady Melania Trump said the White House show would allow Americans to “tune in from their homes and be part of the festivities.” PBS declined to comment.
The USS Constitution sailed in Boston Harbor and fired its guns again to mark Independence Day.
The world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat left its berth at the Charlestown Navy Yard on Wednesday morning. It glided through the harbor to mark 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The ship, nicknamed Old Ironsides, traveled to Fort Independence on Castle Island to fire a 21-gun salute. The ship’s commander saluted the crowds gathered there.
A Navy sailor on board recited the Declaration of Independence.
A historic parade
Crowds lined the streets in a Rhode Island town to see what’s billed as the nation’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration. Begun in 1785, the Bristol parade typically attracts about 100,000 people to the seaside town.
This year’s was a scorcher: Temperatures hovered near 90 degrees when the parade began late Wednesday morning, and some marchers were treated for heat exhaustion and taken off the route.
New Americans, divided America
This was the first Fourth of July that many people were able to call themselves U.S. citizens after participating in naturalization ceremonies across the country.
In New Hampshire, more than 100 people from 48 countries became U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth as part of the museum’s annual American Celebration. A ceremony also was held aboard the USS New Jersey, where dozens of people from countries including Vietnam and Bangladesh were sworn in.
The new citizens pledged allegiance to a country where some people lament that the ability to debate respectfully the toughest issues of the day seems hopelessly lost.
Several people were arrested Wednesday after hanging a banner from the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal that called for abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Later, a protester climbed the statue’s base, forcing the evacuation of Liberty Island, and stayed there for hours before police removed her.
LGBTQ parade participants
Utah LGBTQ groups marched for the first time in a prominent July Fourth festival in the conservative city of Provo after years of organizers blocking them from participating.
The groups were met by cheers and rainbow flags as they marched Wednesday morning in the America’s Freedom Festival parade.
The groups’ parade application was initially denied this year by festival organizers who said participants cannot focus on political or social issues but should instead focus on patriotism.
County officials threatened to pull $100,000 in taxpayer money from the privately organized event until festival organizers struck a deal allowing the groups to participate.
Hot dog eating history
Defending champions Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Miki Sudo held on to their titles at the Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest. They each downed dozens of wieners and buns in front of thousands of spectators at the annual seaside affair at New York’s Coney Island.
Chestnut surpassed his previous record by two hot dogs, gobbling down 74 franks and buns in 10 minutes. He won the Mustard Belt and his 11th title.
Sudo held on to her title as the top women’s competitor, chomping 37 franks and buns to take home the top prize for the fifth consecutive year.
A large tree branch fell on spectators during a fireworks display in western Illinois late Tuesday, killing two men and injuring five other people.
In Maryland, a man was hospitalized with “catastrophic injuries” to his hands after setting off fireworks at a large outdoor party, investigators said.
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