Parades, Monuments, Fireworks Help Americans Mark Independence Day
Undated (AP) _ Americans celebrating the Fourth of July today packed picnic baskets, prepared for fireworks displays and sought out symbols of national pride that included an 85-by-45-foot flag to be unfurled across the likeness of Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
The holiday marked the 211th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but Americans also used it to celebrate the Constitution’s 200th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the dedication of Abraham Lincoln’s likeness on Mount Rushmore.
Some Americans enjoyed two traditions at once - fireworks and baseball at Yankee Stadium in New York Friday night. Others were ready to enjoy the old and the new - fireworks plus laser light shows in Indianapolis tonight.
But most of all, Americans celebrated their diversity by enjoying distinctive local festivals such as the Arkie Olympics at Hot Springs, Ark., which has contests in cowchip throwing and watermelon seed spitting.
Patriotic gestures were the order of the day. At the 202nd Fourth of July parade in Bristol, R.I., 75 Vietnam veterans planned to hand out 9,000 small American flags.
On South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore, Marc Valentine of Halifax, Mass., planned to unfurl his huge flag across the Lincoln’s likeness carved in granite and dedicated 50 years ago today.
In Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, a weekend celebration opened Friday with high-stepping marching bands, foot- stomping cloggers and toe-to-toe throngs downtown - and two fireworks displays.
More than 4,000 people paraded down Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and there was also a historical pageant featuring a fife and drum corps, the Army Band and the Army Chorus and Drill Team.
The National Park Service in New York was expecting 18,000 visitors to the Statue of Liberty today, with no special event planned, said Chief Ranger William deHart. ″We think the statue is event enough, I guess,″ he said.
Nearly 3 1/2 million people have visited the renovated Lady Liberty since it reopened last July 5, or 67 percent more than were expected, said acting Superintendent Kevin C. Buckley.
Hundreds of thousands of people in the San Francisco Bay area watched the Navy’s Blue Angels maneuver fighter planes through loops, upside-down passes and tight formations at Moffett Field Naval Air Station.
St. Louis also had an air show, and comedian Bob Hope and former Chief Justice Warren Burger were on hand Friday to open the annual VP Fair, a three- day bash billed as ″America’s largest birthday party.″
Country singer Johnny Cash said he usually spends Independence Day with his family, but could not resist an invitation to recite the Gettysburg Address and sing ″The Battle Hymn of the Republic″ with the Boston Pops Orchestra during its 58th annual July 4 concert. Many public TV stations will broadcast the concert live at 8 p.m. EDT.
With picnics a big part of the holiday, the Cincinnati market research firm SAMI-Burke predicted American grocery stores will have sold 55 percent more potato chips and 81 percent more mustard this week than usual.
The $150 million a year fireworks industry sells 90 percent of its product this week, said John Conkling, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Safety groups warned about the dangers of explosives, and also wondered whether new 65 mph speed limits would mean more fatalities on the holiday weekend. Troopers worked overtime setting up drunken-driving checkpoints.
In Springdale, Pa., a 20-year-old woman died after she was hit by a train during a fireworks display Friday night. Authorities said a number of people had moved off the tracks as a train approached, and they did not know why the victim, Colleen Cowan of New Kensington, Pa., did not move.