Americans celebrate July 4th with food, fireworks, fun

NEW YORK — With backyard barbecues and fireworks, Americans celebrated Independence Day by participating in time-honored traditions that expressed pride in their country’s 242nd birthday.

But this quintessential American holiday was being marked with a sense of a United States divided for some, evidenced by competing televised events in the nation’s capital.

From New York to California, July Fourth festivities ranged from the lively and to the lighthearted, with Macy’s July Fourth fireworks and Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest.

The day’s events also were stately and traditional, with parades lining streets across the country and the world’s oldest commissioned warship firing a 21-gun salute to mark the 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

For some Western states, however, the holiday was a bit more muted as high wildfire danger forced communities to cancel fireworks displays.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s festivities:

Oldest warship

The USS Constitution has 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 during the cruise.

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.

Dueling celebrations

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’s facing new counterprogramming this year from the White House, which is hosting its own concert and view of the National Park Service’s fireworks show.

PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” has the bigger stars, including The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Pentatonix, Chita Rivera, Luke Combs and The Temptations. It will be hosted by John Stamos.

The entertainers on the 90-minute White House event airing on the Hallmark Channel include singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and two former “American Idol” finalists. Both shows will include the fireworks display from the National Park Service.

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.

Lighting up the night skies

In New York, the Macy’s fireworks show over the East River promises 25 minutes of sparkle and ahhhh plus the West Point Band and entertainers including Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin and Keith Urban on NBC’s broadcast.

But some places in the American West have canceled their planned July Fourth fireworks because of high wildfire danger, and others are doing drone light displays instead of pyrotechnics.

In Colorado, the wildfire danger forced some communities to cancel their fireworks. However, other shows will still go as planned in Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

The small mountain town of Silverton, in southwestern Colorado, called off the fireworks part of its annual Independence Day party, but the rest of Wednesday’s celebration is still on, including live music a water fight with firefighters. Aspen will have a fire-proof drone light display above town.

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.

Participants included a center for LGBTQ youth and an organization that works to bridge divides between the LGBTQ community and the Mormon church.

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.

Fireworks accidents

A large tree branch fell on spectators during a fireworks display in western Illinois late Tuesday, killing two men and injuring five other people. Rock Island County sheriff’s officials said dozens of people were sitting near the tree at the time.

In Maryland, a man was hospitalized with “catastrophic injuries” to his hands after setting off fireworks at a large outdoor party where several attendees took illegal fireworks, investigators said.

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