NEW YORK (AP) — Americans are celebrating their country’s 241st birthday with big-time fireworks, small-town parades and the quirky spectacle of competitive hot dog eating.
Tuesday’s festivities stretch from a baseball home run derby in London to a picnic at the White House to a Utah ski town where residents initially weren’t even sure they’d be home for Independence Day after recent wildfires.
For all the pomp and celebration, July Fourth marks a day of shared traditions in a nation that has grappled with divides this past year. And in an era of concerns about security, the Independence Day celebrations are mixed with precautions.
In New York, throngs are expected to watch the annual Macy’s fireworks show, which involves 60,000 shells launched from up to five barges on the East River and performances by Jennifer Lopez, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and others. It’s televised on NBC.
Organizers of Chicago’s Independence Day celebration were expecting such large crowds that the city’s Navy Pier opened at 10 a.m., nearly 12 hours before fireworks were starting. Hundreds of thousands of people also were expected at Boston’s fireworks show and Boston Pops concert.
A FIRST FOR
For President Donald Trump’s first Independence Day in office, he and first lady Melania Trump hosted a picnic for military families at the White House.
Rain threatened the event on the South Lawn, but cleared up as Trump stepped out to address the crowd from a balcony. Trump pledged his “unwavering support” and told the crowd that he will “always have your back.”
Before the picnic, Trump kicked off his holiday at his golf club in Virginia. The president arrived at the club in Sterling just before 10 a.m. and spent nearly four hours there before returning to the White House. Aides did not answer questions about whether he was golfing.
CELEBRATES WITH CLASSIC CARS
Decked out in red, white and blue, Californians waved flags and sang patriotic songs at Independence Day parades across the state.
Hundreds lined the streets under bright sunshine Tuesday for seaside Santa Monica’s annual celebration, which featured bands and classic cars.
California’s love affair with the automobile was also front-and-center at South Pasadena’s parade, which had the theme “Freedom on the Road. Celebrating Route 66.”
When the sun sets, the parties will continue with fireworks displays. Among the largest in the Los Angeles area will be the annual fanfare at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
To the north, officials are hoping clouds will clear in time for the big display over San Francisco Bay.
OBSERVING JULY FOURTH OVERSEAS
A bit of American sports culture was being displayed in London’s Hyde Park, where several former major leaguers competed in a home run derby. Major League Baseball aims to build interest in the sport in Britain and Europe, despite the region’s longstanding preference for soccer.
Charlie Hill, the managing director of Major League Baseball for Europe, said the Independence Day exhibition is an attempt to “lay down roots” in Britain. He says it’s possible that some official games will be played in London during the 2019 season.
Meanwhile, Denmark hosted the Rebild Festival, considered one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations outside the United States. Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen — who recently tweeted that Trump “should tighten up, focus on the struggle for freedom and show respect for the presidency” in response to Trump’s own Twitter habit — told festival-goers that “when you are friends, you have the right to criticize.”
Samuelsen added, however, that it is “impossible” to live without the United States.
SENATORS CELEBRATE FOURTH WITH TROOPS ABROAD
Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says it was emotional and inspiring to spend July Fourth with troops in Afghanistan.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, led a group of senators to Pakistan and Afghanistan for the holiday weekend. They visited a military base in South Waziristan and met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad before traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Bagram airfield on Tuesday it was emotional because service members in Afghanistan are constantly in harm’s way and constantly making the nation proud.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue are on the trip. They met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.
WELCOMING NEW AMERICANS
More than 15,000 new citizens will be sworn in during more than 65 Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremonies across the country. They are taking place in locales ranging from courthouses to parks to aircraft-carriers-turned-museums.
GULP! HOW MANY HOT DOGS CAN A PERSON EAT?
Record-setting hot dog eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut held onto his title at the hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous in New York on Tuesday, breaking the record he set last year. The San Jose, California, man chowed down 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes, besting last year’s mark of 70.
Meanwhile, Miki Sudo notched a fourth straight win in the women’s division on the Coney Island boardwalk. The Las Vegas woman ate 41 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
SECURING THE CELEBRATIONS
The New York Police Department plans to station 100 vehicles to block intersections and 20 sand-filled sanitation trucks to fortify viewing areas for the Macy’s fireworks show. Heavily armed counterterrorism units will mingle among spectators, officers will have portable radiation detection devices and bomb-sniffing dogs, and officers will be stationed on rooftops to look out for any sign of trouble.
Boston police also plan to put trucks and other heavy equipment near the celebration there. Police in both cities say there are no confirmed threats.
In a somber observance of the toll of terror, small American flags were placed by all the nearly 3,000 names on the National Sept. 11 Memorial in New York on Tuesday morning.
TRADITIONAL ATLANTA ROAD RACE DRAW 65k
Tens of thousands of amateur runners in Atlanta have celebrated the Fourth of July by trailing after an elite band of professionals in the city’s annual 10-K race.
Organizers of the AJC Peachtree Road Race say more than 55,000 runners took part Tuesday morning in hot, humid weather under clear skies.
DAYLONG PARTY IN PHILLY
In Philadelphia, where the Founding Fathers approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, a daylong national birthday party is taking place.
At a celebration of freedom ceremony at Independence Hall on Tuesday morning, members of Boyz II Men read excerpts from the document, and a parade was held through the city’s historic area. Descendants of some of the signers of the Declaration were to take part in the annual ceremonial tapping of the Liberty Bell later Tuesday.
Then, hundreds of thousands were expected to attend a party on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with hours of free music capped by a concert by Mary J. Blige and ending with the annual fireworks display.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY
Residents of the southern Utah ski resort town of Brian Head were planning a fireworks-free celebration, having returned home just this past Friday after a wildfire forced evacuations in the town two weeks earlier.
“None of us even knew if we were going to be open for the Fourth of July,” Brian Head Resort spokesman Mark Wilder said.
The alpine town is near several national monuments and parks in Utah’s red rock country. Brian Head is normally filled with vendors selling crafts and food on the holiday, one of the biggest celebrated at the resort and the start of the area’s festival season, Wilder said.
But he said the town has suspended its fireworks show this year because the area is still too dry and ripe for fires.
“I’m sure people are disappointed with that, but better safe than sorry,” Wilder said.
Meanwhile, at California’s Squaw Valley ski resort, skiers were poised to enjoy a rare July Fourth on the slopes. It’s only the fourth time the resort has ever been open in July.
Officials say an Indiana man has died in Kentucky after a fireworks accident.
The Gleaner reports that the Henderson County Coroner’s Office said 25-year-old Michael Osborne died Monday night at a hospital. A deputy coroner says Osborne, of Salem, Indiana, was bending over a firework to light it when it went off prematurely and hit him in the chest. The firework hit Osborne hard enough to stop his heart and the preliminary cause of death is blunt force trauma. An autopsy was planned.
Associated Press writers from around the U.S. and Europe contributed to this report.