‘Biggest and best’ fireworks show promised in NYC as Independence Day celebrated around USBy Verena Dobnik, AP
Sunday, July 5, 2009
In NYC, biggest fireworks show in US set to begin
NEW YORK — The Fourth of July weekend is shaping up as a celebration for Americans watching fireworks around the country — and for three elephants and a turtle.
In Key West, Fla., an ailing sea turtle that was rescued before Inauguration Day and named after President Barack Obama was set free on Independence Day. From the sand, it swam into the wild waters.
And on Brooklyn’s Coney Island, the elephants rested after eating 505 hot dogs buns in six minutes Friday, winning a competition against three humans who downed 143 buns. It was a sideshow to an iconic Fourth of July event — Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, won Saturday afternoon by Joey Chestnut, who chomped down a record 68 dogs.
The day began with the Statue of Liberty’s crown opening to the public for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001. At about 9 a.m., the first huddled masses huffed and puffed their way up the 354 cramped steps to take in the spectacular view of Manhattan.
After nightfall, more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics — the nation’s biggest fireworks display — are set to explode over a mile-and-a-half stretch of the Hudson River, a new vantage point for New York’s festivities. Millions of spectators expected to watch from both sides of the river.
The celebration returned to Manhattan’s West Side for the first time since the 9/11 attacks. The extravaganza was expanded this year with more than 44,000 shells.
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum — a retired World War II aircraft carrier — was hosting the live NBC broadcast of the spectacle. The show on its decks was scheduled to start at 9 p.m. EST, featuring the cast of Broadway’s “West Side Story” and other stars.
While the recession forced many communities to scale down, or even cancel, their fireworks, “we’re a country of survivors and fighters, and we try to make things work,” said Gary Souza, whose family-owned, California-based company is staging the New York display as well as hundreds of others across the country — including the nation’s capital.
In Washington, the daylong celebrations started with a parade along Constitution Avenue and was to end with fireworks over the Washington Monument.
In Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, the city held a parade through the Old City neighborhood for the first time in 18 years. Descendants of the Declaration’s signers gathered at the Liberty Bell, and fireworks were planned over the Museum of Art.
On Saturday morning in Boston, with its rich Revolutionary War history, the Navy’s oldest commissioned warship perform its annual turnaround in the harbor. The USS Constitution — “Old Ironsides” — marked the day by firing a 21-gun salute, the highest maritime honor, followed by 19 volleys.
On Saturday evening, Bostonians filled the banks of the Charles River for a free Boston Pops concert featuring Neil Diamond.
The festivities turned somber in North Carolina, where authorities said a truckload of fireworks exploded on Ocracoke Island off the coast, killing one worker and critically injuring four.
In New York, Manhattan’s six-lane West Side Highway was closed to traffic so pedestrians could view the fireworks. Across the river, Frank Sinatra’s hometown of Hoboken, N.J., had one of the best views, facing the heart of the barge lineup in the Hudson against the Manhattan skyline for “one of the biggest and best shows we’ve ever put together,” said Souza.
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