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Parades, hot dogs, cold beer: America celebrates July 4

July 5, 2015

Parades, fireworks, naturalization ceremonies, eating contests and music ushered in the Fourth of July as the United States marked 239 years as an independent nation on Saturday. Here were some highlights of Independence Day celebrations:

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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.

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SPECTATORS BRAVE TIGHT SECURITY FOR NYC FIREWORKS SHOW

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 handheld radiation detectors to scan baby carriages and large suitcases.

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MUSIC, CULTURAL CELEBRATIONS ON NATIONAL MALL

Heavy rainstorms drenched the region around the White house Saturday, forcing a cancellation of an annual July Fourth picnic for military members and their families on the South Lawn.

Still, many festivities in Washington proceeded as scheduled, including a fife and drum corps, parade and concerts on the National Mall.

As morning rains cleared, the capital’s Fourth of July parade kicked off. The parade featured marching bands, floats and balloons with plenty of red, white and blue.

The U.S. Air Force Band performs Saturday evening on the Washington Monument grounds. The big event is the “Capitol Fourth” concert on the west lawn of the Capitol, featuring Barry Manilow and the National Symphony Orchestra. President Barack Obama was scheduled to make brief remarks prior to fireworks.

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NEW CITIZENS SWORN IN

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.

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PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFULS CAMPAIGN IN PARADES

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.

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NATHAN’S HOT DOG EATING CONTEST

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.

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

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DECLARATION SIGNING

Visitors to the National Archives building in Washington were invited to sign replicas of the Declaration of Independence.

Some signed with a quill pen while others used modern writing instruments.

The National Archives — which houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights — also hosted a reading of the Declaration of Independence by re-enactors portraying Abigail Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.

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IN AMERICA’S BIRTHPLACE: CONCERTS, A PARADE AND BEER

Philadelphia marks the holiday with a Celebration of Freedom ceremony, a parade through its historic district and a concert and fireworks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The Celebration of Freedom is the 50th anniversary of a protest outside Independence Hall that is a milestone in the fight for gay rights.

The concert features performances from Philadelphia’s own The Roots, Miguel and Jennifer Nettles.

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BOSTON POPS FEATURE 42ND SHOW

Gospel singer Michelle Brooks-Thompson performs the national anthem as Keith Lockhart celebrates his 20th year as conductor for the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular Saturday.

The star-studded event at the DCR Hatch Cell in the city’s Back Bay off the Charles River Esplanade also features Broadway star Michael Cavanaugh, “American Idol” finalist Melinda Doolittle and “America’s Got Talent” finalist Sons of Serendip, a quartet whose members met at Boston University.

Drum and bugle corps, the Boston Crusaders and the USO Show Troupe will also perform.

Events, televised and broadcast live in Boston, begin at 8 p.m. Fireworks start at 10:30 p.m.

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