WASHINGTON: The United States marks 238 years as a nation as it celebrates Independence Day on Saturday with fireworks, food and music. Hurricane Arthur crashed holiday parties along the East Coast. Moscow had subdued festivities amid growing anti-American sentiment over the crisis in Ukraine.
Tens of thousands of people gathered to watch the fireworks show in New York City.
A brilliant 25-minute show of reds, whites and blues lit up the sky from three barges on the East River, sandwiched between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan — and even some from the Brooklyn Bridge itself.
Macy’s says more than 1,600 shells were launched per minute during the display, the nation’s largest.
Other major fireworks shows were being held in Chicago and San Francisco.
The first hurricane of the season, Arthur, forced many East Coast cities to switch the dates of their celebrations.
Boston officials moved the annual Boston Pops concert and fireworks to Thursday. Several cities in Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey moved their fireworks shows to either Saturday or Sunday.
When it made landfall in North Carolina late Thursday, Arthur narrowly missed becoming the first hurricane to make landfall on July Fourth, according to National Hurricane Center research that dates to the 1850s.
In Washington, composer John Williams was debuting a new arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” featuring choirs, trumpets, an orchestra and cannons on the National Mall.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the national anthem. Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the flag over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in September 1814 after a 25-hour British bombardment.
Thousands of people celebrated the day in the nation’s capital under clear skies.
Gluttony on the fourth
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut dropped to one knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend before the annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest, then ate 61 franks and buns to hold onto his coveted mustard yellow winner’s belt. He fell far short of his record last year of 69 dogs and buns, but he still easily beat second-place finisher Matt Stonie, who downed just 56.
Vice President Joe Biden, addressing the annual “Celebration of Freedom” ceremony at Independence Hall, said the lessons of the civil rights movement show that the struggle for freedom that began in Philadelphia more than two centuries ago is not over.
Expats in Canada
Julie Buchanan, treasurer of Democrats Abroad, planned to celebrate at a Toronto bar with red, white and blue sparklers, about 125 of her American expat friends, and life-size cut-outs of President Barack Obama and the first lady.
“We really miss the patriotism of America; so many of us crave that sense of pride and camaraderie from back home,” Buchanan said.
The national anthems of both Russia and the United States played at the traditional garden party held at the stately residence of the American ambassador in Moscow. But far fewer Russians than usual came, either because they were unwilling to be seen associating with American diplomats or because their anti-American statements had gotten them scratched off of the guest list.
The other big Independence Day party in Moscow, organized by the American Chamber of Commerce, takes place Sunday and, in a break from tradition, is being held at a private golf and polo club instead of a city park. Security appears to have been a concern for the change.