US celebrates July 4th with fireworks, parades

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CELEBRATION OF FREEDOM Fireworks explode over the Hudson River in New York City as the United States celebrated its 235th anniversary of declaring independence from the British Empire. AFP

NEW YORK—Americans marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and an eating contest.

Thousands were showing up near the Washington Monument to eagerly await the annual fireworks show on the National Mall, while others were throwing on Hawaiian shirts and shorts to ski the still-snowy slopes at resorts from California to Colorado.

In Boston, the annual Boston Pops concert was a must. In Akron, Ohio, the Rib, White & Blue Food Festival was enticing. And then, there were Nevada’s casinos, which promised a pyrotechnics extravaganza that could be a gambler’s best bet.

On New York’s Coney Island, the annual Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog-eating contest brought out the biggest names in competitive eating for a clash that was short in timespan but high in calories.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, of San Jose, California, wolfed down 62 hot dogs and buns during the 10-minute contest, winning his fifth straight title. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas chowed her way to victory in the first-ever women-only contest, eating 40 hot dogs, one shy of her 2009 total.

At the mountaintop home to Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Virginia, officials continued a nearly five-decade-old tradition of swearing in new US citizens. Seventy-seven people took their oaths during a naturalization ceremony at Monticello.

The holiday marking US independence from England is celebrated as the country’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.

Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues

US Rep. Michelle Bachmann marched in a parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. In New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — a former ambassador to China — both marched in the Amherst parade.

In New York, where fireworks are banned on city streets, residents were waiting for a massive display over the Hudson River set to music.

Resident Karina Suriano, 23, wore patriotic colors and bright red feather earrings as she sold beach supplies in Brooklyn.

The holiday “means money to me,” she said with a grin.

She sold a water gun to the mother of 8-year-old Dejairah Mooreland. What does the holiday signify to her?

“Indepencendy!” the little girl exclaimed, not quite getting the holiday’s name right. “Freedom! America!”

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