America celebrates Independence Day with fireworks, parades

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NTP: Fourth of July Festivities around the Country
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America celebrates Independence Day with fireworks, parades
People hang from the Sky Flyer ride at the State Fair Meadowlands during a Fourth of July fireworks display, Friday, July 3, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Melinda Doolittle performs during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Fireworks in honor of Fourth of July are displayed behind the Ring of Fire ride at the State Fair Meadowlands, Friday, July 3, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A young girl waves a flag during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Soldiers fire a cannon during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Fireworks shoot from the top of the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
A young girl waves a flag during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Fom left to right, spectators Mary Ann Rollings, Gloria Kelley, Linda Stacey and Eileen Bitter pose for a photo before rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert on the Esplanade in Boston, Friday, July 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
A boy plays with a kite Friday, July 3, 2015, at Crown Memorial Beach in Alameda, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
People enjoy warm temperatures on Crown Memorial Beach Friday, July 3, 2015, in Alameda, Calif. The San Francisco skyline is seen in the background. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
David Clark places flags for the Fourth of July celebrations along the Town Green, Friday, July 3, 2015, in Middlebury, Vt. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 03: Barry Manilow performs at A Capitol Fourth 2015 Independence Day Concert dress rehearsals on July 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/WireImage)
Miki Sudo, second from right, holds her trophy and smiles after winning the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest women's competition Saturday, July 4, 2015, at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Sudo ate 38 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)(AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
The tall ship Hermione passes near the Statue of Liberty as it leads the Lafayette Parade of ships up the Hudson River in New York's Upper Bay Saturday, July 4, 2015. The Hermione is a replica of the 18th century ship the Marquis de Lafayette, sailed to the America's with news of full French support for the revolutionary cause. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Spectators watch Fourth of July fireworks from the Stratosphere hotel and casino, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) watches Fourth of July fireworks on the field after a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. The Twins won 5-3. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Macy's Fourth of July fireworks light up the sky over Manhattan, Saturday, July 4, 2015 in New York in a view from One World Observatory. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Americans celebrated 239 years as an independent nation on Saturday with extravagant fireworks displays, rock and classical concerts and parades both big and small. Here were some highlights of Independence Day festivities around the nation:



Hundreds of thousands of people braved tight security along New York City's East River to watch the annual Macy's Fourth of July fireworks display.

Minneapolis resident Joe Cunningham said Saturday's fireworks show was "awesome" and lived up to his family's expectations.

Cunningham said New York's show will be the benchmark for all other fireworks displays.

Macy's said the 25-minute show featured more than 50,000 shells set off from five barges on the river.

The fireworks show was broadcast on NBC.

The tight security included officers searching backpacks and purses. Other officers used hand-held radiation detectors to scan baby carriages and large suitcases.



President Barack Obama says U.S. service members make it possible to enjoy the "incredible blessings" in the greatest country on earth.

He says "freedom is not free" but is paid for by all the men and women of the military, including those who blanketed the White House South Lawn for a concert in their honor by Bruno Mars.

Obama spoke minutes before the annual Fourth of July fireworks lit up the night sky over the National Mall. He was accompanied by Michelle Obama.

Heavy rain that soaked Washington all day forced the White House to cancel its annual Fourth of July picnic for members of the military and their families.

The USO military service organization sponsored the concert that featured a performance by Mars.



Gay rights activists gathered in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia on the Fourth of July to mark the progress of their movement and pay tribute to those who launched it a half-century ago.

But they also made it clear that the fight for equality was far from over.

LGBT activist Aisha Moodie-Mills hailed the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide, but said in many places "you can still get married on Sunday and then fired on Monday."

Organizers remembered some of the earliest gay rights marches, including a gathering of about 40 protesters in the same location on July 5, 1965 calling for equality.

They called that a bold and courageous act by the standards of the day, when homosexuals could be arrested for intimate acts even in the privacy of their own homes.



A 15-year-old girl won the women's division of the 42nd annual cherry spitting contest in Eau Claire, Michigan, by sending a pit farther than anyone else: 49 1/4 feet.

"I just took a deep breath and pushed hard," said Megan Ankrapp of Buchanan. "I was shocked."

Kevin Bartz won the championship with a spit of 48 feet and 8 inches. Ankrapp was not allowed to participate in the overall championship round because her earlier spits were too short to qualify.

Bartz said he was excited to finally beat Brian Krause, the 2014 champ, but then realized a teenager had sent a pit farther than he did.

"I look up and say, 'Wait a minute. One of the girls beat me,'" said Bartz, 48. "It's not quite as exciting."



Naturalization ceremonies big and small were held across the U.S.

The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Baltimore district administered the oath of allegiance to 40 people from 27 countries during a ceremony at The Engineers Club in Baltimore.

In Plymouth, Vermont, 20 people became U.S. citizens at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. The great-granddaughter of President and Mrs. Coolidge sang the national anthem.

Officials say over 4,000 new citizens were welcomed in more than 50 naturalization ceremonies across the country from July 1 through July 4.



Parades across Iowa and New Hampshire were clear reminders of the race for the White House: Red balloons promoting "Jeb! 2016," a tractor draped in a Rick Perry banner and dutiful volunteers holding signs and chanting.

Former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island as well as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham worked the crowd in Amherst, while Hillary Rodham Clinton marched in a parade in New Hampshire's North Country. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent the holiday in New Hampshire's Lakes Region, as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley met voters in Iowa.



Matt Stonie devoured 62 wieners and buns in 10 minutes to upset Joey "Jaws" Chestnut in the annual hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, breaking Chestnut's bid for a ninth straight victory.

Stonie beat Chestnut by two wieners. Both are from San Jose, California. The third-place finisher ate 35 hot dogs.

Defending champion Miki Sudo won the women's division by devouring 38 wieners and buns in 10 minutes. She downed four more hot dogs than last year and bested Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas of Alexandria, Virginia, who ate 31 wieners.


This story has been corrected to show that third-place finisher in men's contest ate 35 hot dogs, not 32.



A pilot who delivered candy to children in Berlin at the end of World War II parachuted sweets down to Orem, Utah, to celebrate Independence Day.

Gail Halvorsen, 94, also known as the "Candy Bomber," dropped 1,000 chocolate bars attached to tiny parachutes at Scera Park on Friday. He flew over the area three times before releasing the cargo into the hands of the children below.

Deb Jackson, co-chair of the event, estimated more than 50,000 people stood in 100-degree Fahrenheit temperatures to watch the 4 p.m. drop.

Halvorsen flew in a fixed-wing bomber from World War II with two escort planes attending, the Daily Herald of Provo reported.


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