New York area celebrates Independence Day

Banners with the United States flag colors wave as fireworks burst in the air during the Fourth of July Independence Day show at State Fair Meadowlands, Tuesday, July 3, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

July 5, 2012 3:33:51 AM PDT
Americans celebrated the country's 236th birthday Wednesday with fireworks, parades and other festivities across the country.

People blanketed 12th Avenue in Manhattan as far as the eye could see, eager to glimpse the 40,000 aerial shells that were launched from five barges as part of the Macy's fireworks spectacular. The multi-colored sparklers lit the night sky, pyrotechnic bursts that included shapes like hearts and smiley faces.

"They're good! They're big, that's for sure," said Michael Hites of Mobile, Ala., visiting New York with his wife and three young children and part of the crowd on 12th Avenue. "The cool thing is, there's probably a million people watching this from all down this one street."

Organizers say preparations for the event began as soon as last year's display ended.

"Nobody really needs to know the behind-the-scenes that goes into play," said Amy Kule, the show's executive producer. "They don't need to know the year of planning. They don't need to know how much (time) we spend out in the sun, packing all of the fireworks...The only thing they need to do is enjoy."

Tammy Zentgraf definitely did. The 20-year-old from Frankfurt, Germany who works in New York as an au pair, said they have fireworks in her home country to celebrate a new year, but nothing like this.

"It's amazing, it's really beautiful," she said. "I really like the combination of the colors and I like that it's so big, it's the most beautiful fireworks I've ever seen."

Earlier Wednesday, Joey Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., won his sixth straight Coney Island hot dog eating contest by matching his record of 68 hot dogs and buns. Sonya Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., downed 45 hot dogs, a record, to win the women's competition.

Many Americans abandoned their holiday plans after going without power from violent storms that hit Friday across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

Jeanette Oliver had planned to have her relatives over to her Vineland, N.J., home, but the ongoing power outage forced her to change those plans on the fly this week.

"They had been saying most people would have (electrical) service back by Wednesday, but we didn't want to risk having a big party in a home where you couldn't turn on the air conditioning, you couldn't turn on a TV or a computer," Oliver said outside a supermarket early Wednesday. "Several people in our family are elderly, and you don't want them suffering with the heat and being uncomfortable."

Sarah Lenkay and her roommates, who lost power in Columbus, Ohio, Friday evening, didn't have power back until around midnight Wednesday. They weren't too excited about the holiday, because the last few days have been so miserable.

"I'm just enjoying the comfort of my home right now, and cleaning and getting things in order," she said. "So I'm not really doing much. It feels great."


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