Let’s party! America celebrates July 4th as Lady Liberty reopens after Hurricane Sandy (oh, and there’s THAT hot dog eating contest still to come)
- Concerts scheduled in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington
- Rain and lightning storms threaten celebrations on the Gulf Coast
- Record-breaking heat wave continues out West
- Statue of Liberty reopens today for first time since last October after it sustained damage in Hurricane Sandy
- Security ramped up in Boston for first big event since April bombings
Fireworks celebrations and concerts have been scheduled across the country as the nation celebrates Independence Day but inclement weather threatens to ruin the festivities in the south eastern gulf states.
High pressure systems in the western United States continue to threaten record-breaking heat while the East Coast will have to deal with thunderstorms and intermittent showers to put a damper on Fourth of July festivities.
The worst will hit in the afternoon and late evening as the Gulf Coast will be hit by frequent downpours and lightning.
That hasn’t stopped music stars from coming out in droves as concerts and firework displays are expected to draw thousands in all major cities, but two of the celebrations will be bittersweet.
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Security at the Boston Pops concert in Massachusetts has been ramped up dramatically as it is the first large gathering since the marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds in April.
Organizers are also trying to lift the spirits of Yarnell, Arizona residents after a wildfire killed 19 local firefighters on Sunday.
In Arizona, a carnival, parade, fireworks display and dance that draw thousands here each year will go on in Prescott, but with sober tributes for 19 firefighters who died earlier this week battling a blaze.
The notoriously rambunctious annual rodeo contest in Prescott added a solemn new ritual this week: a cowboy leading a riderless horse around the outdoor arena, a fire helmet sitting on its saddle, fire boots resting in the stirrups.
Bringing families together: The Haigs stand and pledge allegiance at a public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston
What the day looks like: Storms in the West and South East threaten outdoor barbeques
Spectators in this Old West town of 40,000 placed straw hats over hearts and cried quietly during the tribute to the 19 firefighters who were killed Sunday, then went on to drink, laugh and cheer as heartily as the miners and ranchers who patronized the arena in the 1800s.
FOOD AND FOUNDING FATHERS: ODD FACTS ABOUT THE FOURTH
- The world record holders for most hot dogs eaten in 10 minutes squared off in Coney Island on Thursday at Nathan’s and female record holder Sonya ‘The Black Widow’ Thomas and male record holder Joey Chestnut held on to their titles. Chestnut added a new one to his collection, however, as he broke the world record by winning for the 7th straight year as he gobbled down 69 dogs and she ate 37, both in ten minutes.
- Their contribution is just a drop in the bucket nationwide, as Americans eat about 150 million on the Fourth. If lined up, that would stretch from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles more than five times.
- The Fourth of July is the day when the country commemorates the adoptation of the Declaration of Independence, the founding document written by the country’s founding fathers separating the colonies from Britain’s rule.
- For some of the founding fathers, however, July 4 was also marked a sad day, as John Adams and Thomas Jefferson- the second and third presidents respectively- died on the same July 4 in 1826. James Monroe, the fifth president, followed suit five years later.
Emotional whiplash has become a matter of course here as residents try to move on and enjoy the biggest tourism week of the year, while also mourning the men who were the town’s pride.
Personal fireworks remained banned in New York and were banned in New Mexico on state lands due to wildfires.
Crowds already began to gather in Boston on Wednesday as Massachusetts State Police and the National Guard stood watch before rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fourth of July Concert at the Hatch Shell.
Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and New Orleans also planned large holiday concerts.
In Washington, thousands of Americans were to gather on the National Mall to watch a 17-minute fireworks display and listen to performances by Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and John Williams conducting music from the movie ‘Lincoln.’
New Orleans was hosting the Essence Music Festival stringing stages along the French Quarter.
And Philadelphia was hosting what was billed as the ‘largest free concert in America,’ with John Mayer, Neo and Hunter Hayes filling in last-minute for a sick Demi Lovato.
Not everyone was welcoming the masses – Hermosa Beach, California, was ramping up police patrols and making room in jails for revelers who in recent years have made the city an annual destination for celebrating independence with drunkenness and raucous behavior.
That said, New Yorkers will be treated to the annual fireworks display over the Hudson River with performances by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, but for city residents, two of the most important events will be taking place off the island of Manhattan.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is seeking his seventh straight title at the Nathan’s Original hot dog eating contest on Brooklyn’s Coney Island, in hopes of attaining a world record. Last year he downed 68 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes.
Unfortunately for supporters, the Cyclone roller coaster and other attractions at the famed amusement park were closed going into the holiday after a 275-foot-tall observation tower swayed in the wind.
More important in a historical context, however, is the reopening of The Statue of Liberty.
Lady Liberty finally reopened after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island in New York Harbor. A large crowd gathered for the holiday and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Liberty Island with federal officials and New York’s mayor.
Lines stretched blocks long for the boat, which left from Battery Park in Manhattan.
Rodney and Judy Long, of Charlotte, North Carolina, were the first people in line for the boat called Lady Liberty. They couldn’t get tickets to climb to the top of the statue, but they were just glad to be there for the big reopening, they said.
‘It’s perfect timing for it to reopen. It’s really a symbol for what the country is all about,’ Rodney Long said.
Heather and Chris Leykam traveled to Liberty Island from Brooklyn with their three kids: Avril, 7, Delilah, whose 6th birthday is Thursday, and Finn, 1. The family thought it would be fitting to celebrate Delilah’s birthday at the Statue of Liberty.
‘This to us, Liberty Island, is really about a rebirth,’ said Heather Leykam, whose mother’s home in Breezy Point was destroyed during Sandy. ‘It is a sense of renewal for the city and the country.’
Some repairs to brick walkways and docks are still underway, but much of the work has been completed since Sandy swamped most of the national landmark’s 12-acre site.
The statue was spared in the fall storm, but Lady Liberty’s little island took a serious beating.
Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers.
Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.
Visitors to Lady Liberty will go through security on lower Manhattan, after city officials criticized an earlier plan to screen them at neighboring Ellis Island, which endured far worse damage to its infrastructure and won’t be open to the public anytime soon.
The damage to both islands was put at $59million.