On July 4, Americans celebrate their union, rue divisions

  • U.S. flags surrounding the Washington Monument are backlit by the rising sun on Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) J. David Ake

  • Master of Ceremony George Shea, top center, announces that reigning champion Joey Chestnut, bottom center, is winning the men's competition of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest in the final seconds of the competition, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in New York's Coney Island. Chestnut broke his own world record by eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • A woman dressed at the Statue of Liberty waves to the crowd while riding on a float in the Fourth of July parade in Marietta, Ga., Wednesday, July 4, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • Southern belles wearing colorful antebellum dresses wave to the crowd while walking in the Fourth of July parade in Marietta, Ga., Wednesday, July 4, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

  • fireworks to mark the Fourth of July holiday explode as fans sit on the outfield grass of Coors Field after a baseball game Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in Denver. The Colorado Rockies won 8-1 over the San Francisco Giants. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) David Zalubowski

  • Olivier Duverneau claps with his American flag after becoming a citizen during a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS New Jersey, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Camden, N.J. (Joe Lamberti/Camden Courier-Post via AP) Joe Lamberti

  • Fireworks explode over the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in Boston, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • Reigning champion Joey Chestnut eats two hot dogs at a time during the men's competition of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in New York's Coney Island. The defending champion broke his own world record by eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • Reigning champion Miki Sudo celebrates after winning the women's competition of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in New York's Coney Island. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • Spectators cheer as confetti falls during rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in Boston, Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) Michael Dwyer

  • Fireworks from the 2018 Pops on the River Independence Day celebration at Coolidge Park light up the sky over the Tennessee River on Tuesday, July 3, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera played a collection of patriotic music during the free event. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP) C.B. Schmelter

  • Brayden Austin, left, Gavin Colby, middle, and Brylee Roberge patiently wait with an armful of flags to be burned at Veterans Memorial Park in Lewiston, Maine, Tuesday, July 3, 2018, during the Salute to the American Flag and Retirement Ceremony. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal via AP) Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

  • Juan Rodriguez waits to compete during the in the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in New York's Coney Island. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Mary Altaffer

  • The crowd near the Queer Meals stand reacts as the Provo Pride marches past during the Freedom Festival's Grand Parade on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Provo, Utah. (Evan Cobb/The Daily Herald via AP) Evan Cobb, Daily Herald

  • Anne Foley, member of Encircle, gives an attendee of the Freedom Festival's Grand Parade a hug during the pre-parade during the Freedom Festival's Grand Parade on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Provo, Utah. (Evan Cobb/The Daily Herald via AP) Evan Cobb, Daily Herald

  • J.D. Goates waves to the crowd while carrying the end of the PFLAG Provo/Utah County quilt during the Freedom Festival's Grand Parade on Wednesday, July 4, 2018, in Provo, Utah. (Evan Cobb/The Daily Herald via AP) Evan Cobb, Daily Herald

Associated Press
Published: 7/4/2018 7:19:06 PM

NEW YORK — With backyard barbecues and fireworks, Americans are celebrating Independence Day by participating in time-honored traditions that express pride in their country’s 242nd birthday.

But this quintessential American holiday will also be marked with a sense of a United States divided for some — evidenced by competing televised events in the nation’s capital.

From New York to California, July Fourth festivities will be at times lively and lighthearted, with Macy’s July Fourth fireworks and Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest.

The day’s events will also be stately and traditional, with parades lining streets across the country and the world’s oldest commissioned warship firing a 21-gun salute to mark the 242 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

For some Western states, however, the holiday will be a bit more muted as high wildfire danger forces communities to cancel fireworks displays.

Here are some highlights of Wednesday’s festivities:

A historic parade

Crowds lined the streets in a Rhode Island town to see what’s billed as the nation’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration. Begun in 1785, the Bristol parade typically attracts about 100,000 people to the seaside town.

This year’s was a scorcher: Temperatures hovered near 90 degrees when the parade began late Wednesday morning, and some marchers were treated for heat exhaustion and taken off the route.

Dueling celebrations

The country’s longest-running live national July Fourth television tradition is PBS’ broadcast of music and fireworks from the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn. But it’s facing new counterprogramming this year from the White House, which is hosting its own concert and view of the National Park Service’s fireworks show.

PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth” has the bigger stars, including The Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, Pentatonix, Chita Rivera, Luke Combs and The Temptations. It will be hosted by John Stamos.

The entertainers on the 90-minute White House event airing on the Hallmark Channel include singer-songwriter Sara Evans, pianist Lola Astanova and two former “American Idol” finalists. Both shows will include the fireworks display from the National Park Service.

First lady Melania Trump said the White House show would allow Americans to “tune in from their homes and be part of the festivities.” PBS declined to comment.

Lighting up the night skies

In New York, the Macy’s fireworks show over the East River promises 25 minutes of sparkle and ahhhh plus the West Point Band and entertainers including Kelly Clarkson, Ricky Martin and Keith Urban on NBC’s broadcast.

But some places in the American West have canceled their planned July Fourth fireworks because of high wildfire danger, and others are doing drone light displays instead of pyrotechnics.

In Colorado, the wildfire danger forced some communities to cancel their fireworks. However, other shows will still go as planned in Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

The small mountain town of Silverton, in southwestern Colorado, called off the fireworks part of its annual Independence Day party, but the rest of Wednesday’s celebration is still on, including live music a water fight with firefighters. Aspen will have a fire-proof drone light display above town.

New Americans, divided America

This was the first Fourth of July that many people were able to call themselves U.S. citizens after participating in naturalization ceremonies across the country.

In New Hampshire, more than 100 people from 48 countries became U.S. citizens during a ceremony at the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth as part of the museum’s annual American Celebration. A ceremony also was held aboard the USS New Jersey, where dozens of people from countries including Vietnam and Bangladesh were sworn in.

The new citizens pledged allegiance to a country where some people lament that the ability to debate respectfully the toughest issues of the day seems hopelessly lost. Several people were arrested Wednesday after hanging a banner from the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal that called for abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

LGBTQ PARADE PARTICIPANTS

Utah LGBTQ groups marched for the first time in a prominent July Fourth festival in the conservative city of Provo after years of organizers blocking them from participating.

The groups were met by cheers and rainbow flags as they marched Wednesday morning in the America’s Freedom Festival parade.

Participants included a center for LGBTQ youth and an organization that works to bridge divides between the LGBTQ community and the Mormon church.

The groups’ parade application was initially denied this year by festival organizers who said participants cannot focus on political or social issues but should instead focus on patriotism.

County officials threatened to pull $100,000 in taxpayer money from the privately organized event until festival organizers struck a deal allowing the groups to participate.

Fireworks accidents

A large tree branch fell on spectators during a fireworks display in western Illinois late Tuesday, killing two men and injuring five other people. Rock Island County sheriff’s officials said dozens of people were sitting near the tree at the time.

In Maryland, a man was hospitalized with “catastrophic injuries” to his hands after setting off fireworks at a large outdoor party where several attendees took illegal fireworks, investigators said.




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