Revelers across the US brave heat and rain to celebrate Fourth of July

Jul 4, 2023, 1:14 PM | Updated: 6:54 pm

James Tyler, 19, tilts his head back so the popcorn he is eating on the back of a decorated Jeep wo...

James Tyler, 19, tilts his head back so the popcorn he is eating on the back of a decorated Jeep won't catch on his artificial Uncle Sam mustache after Tuesday's Independence Day parade in Buffalo Gap, Texas Tuesday, July 4, 2023. (Ronald W. Erdrich /The Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

(Ronald W. Erdrich /The Abilene Reporter-News via AP)

BOSTON (AP) — Revelers across the U.S. braved heat and heavy rain to take part in Fourth of July activities Tuesday — celebrating the nation’s founding with parades, fireworks and hot dog eating contests at a time of lingering political divisions and concerns about the country’s future.

In Boston, people dodged raindrops to nab a coveted space on the grassy oval in front of the Hatch Shell along the Charles River ahead of the traditional Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. Hundreds of thousands of partygoers typically line both sides of the river for the fireworks spectacular that follows a concert.

At another longstanding celebration, fans of competitive eating crowded to watch Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest held in the Coney Island section of New York City.

Heavy downpours interrupted the contest, but after the pause, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut swallowed 62 franks and buns in 10 minutes.

“What a roller coaster, emotionally,” Chestnut said. The 39-year-old from Westfield, Indiana, first competed for the title in 2005 and hasn’t lost since 2015.

New York wasn’t the only state where weather factored into events.

The 10-kilometer Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race that typically draws thousands of runners in humid summer weather was cut short because of possible thunderstorms.

Farther north, a fireworks show in Yankton, South Dakota, was postponed until Wednesday night because lightning prevented crews from setting up the display. In Nebraska, the Omaha Symphony’s Independence Day Celebration that includes a concert and fireworks shows were also postponed until Wednesday night.

New Orleans residents welcomed rain and slightly cooler conditions after days of heat and humidity baked the city. The General Roy S. Kelley fireboat was returning to New Orleans Riverfront for a patriotic water show, sending streams of red, white, and blue water into the air.

The Colorado towns and suburbs of Estes Park, Golden and Highlands Ranch cancelled fireworks celebrations after thunderstorm alerts were issued. Severe weather warnings scuttled Independence Day travel plans at Denver International Airport, where at least 290 flights were delayed and 171 cancelled — among the most flights affected in the nation — according to Flight Aware.

President Joe Biden hosted a barbecue for military families at the White House, which was decked out with red, white and blue bunting and big U.S. flags draped over the columns facing the South Lawn. Biden told the crowd gathered how grateful he was for their service. And he talked about how important it was to work to unify the nation.

“Democracy is never guaranteed,” Biden said. “Every generation must fight to maintain it.”

Later, the Bidens watched fireworks from the White House balcony with thousands of guests on the lawn, as Louis Armstrong’s version of “America the Beautiful” played over loudspeakers.

Vice President Kamala Harris was in her home state of California, where she visited a Los Angeles fire station to pay tribute to first-responders who she said risk their lives for their community.

“On this Independence Day, we came by to thank them, and to let them know we think of them all the time,” Harris said.

While the holiday put a spotlight on how Americans carry different views of patriotism, many people embraced the holiday with whimsy and a sense of community.

In Hannibal, Missouri, the hometown of Mark Twain, the Fourth of July weekend coincides with National Tom Sawyer Days. Fence-painting and frog-jumping contests were held.

Altoona, Iowa, dubbed its celebration “CORNival.” In addition to the nod to America’s birthday, the festival marks the 100th anniversary of the first acre of commercial hybrid seed corn, grown and harvested in Altoona in 1923. Twenty 6-foot-high fiberglass corn cob statutes decorated by local artists were being unveiled and will later be placed around the town of 21,000 residents.

In Joppatowne, Maryland, hundreds of people lined up at a Sheetz gas station to pump regular fuel at $1.776 per gallon, WBAL-TV reported. Sheetz set the price per gallon in commemoration of the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, according to a statement posted on the company’s website.

And in the east Tennessee city of Gatlinburg held its annual Independence Day midnight parade early Tuesday. George Hawkins, who created the parade, died Saturday, news outlets reported.

Running events were a feature of many celebrations.

In Lexington, Kentucky, about 2,000 people ran through the city’s downtown. Stephanie Thurman told WKYT-TV that the race had been on her bucket list. “I started these races here in 2019; I turned 50. That was one of the things on my bucket list, so I did that, and ever since then, I was bit by the bug,”

Hundreds participated in Alaska’s Mount Marathon, a grueling mountain race that features steep inclines, loose rock and shale that the top runners seemingly fly over on their way down. It’s an Independence Day tradition in coastal Seward, a town of about 2,500 people south of Anchorage.

Some cities were eschewing firework displays for shows in which drones fitted with lights are coded to create massive, moving shapes in the sky. Los Angeles, Tahoe City, California, Salt Lake City, and Boulder, along with a few other Colorado towns, have opted for the the aerial spectacles that can display an expansive American flag and the year 1776 in red, white and blue. Avoiding explosive fireworks limits the danger of fires in states already devastated by massive burns.

The air pollution agency for Southern California issued an alert for potential health problems caused by high levels of airborne particles from fireworks. The particulate advisory by the South Coast Air Quality Management District is in effect through Wednesday in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The Chicago suburb of Highland Park, where a shooting at least year’s Fourth of July parade left seven people dead, also held a drone show to avoid the startling noise of fireworks.

Gun violence also marred some of the celebratory atmosphere, as shootings left three dead in Texas.

Fireworks also led to at least one death, in western Michigan. Nine other people were injured in that fireworks explosion on Monday, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department said.

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Revelers across the US brave heat and rain to celebrate Fourth of July