Fourth of July fireworks: grand finale lights up sky from Empire State Building

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Fourth of July celebrations started early this year, a week in advance, as the city planned unannounced fireworks in various locations to keep crowds away - Saturday's grand finale wasn't the only tradition with changes.

This year, organizers launched unannounced fireworks displays in select areas across the city, like a display in the heart of Times Square to prevent large gatherings as health and safety this year is the top priority.

While the view was perfect Saturday in Long Island City, it was a different kind of celebration, with minimal crowds and families in small groups - but they were all coming together for the same tradition.

The fireworks grand finale launched from Empire State Building, lasting only a few minutes...not so impressive for some.

This year, beaches enforced stricter efforts to maintain social distancing.

Beaches are open for swimming, but one of the changes made for the holiday weekend are for beachgoers to wear a face mask when not in the water.

Many people flocking to beaches like at Coney Island will be met by social distancing ambassadors, assigned by the city, handing out masks and reminding people to stay six feet apart.

It can be a challenge on a hot day when the city's 14 miles of beaches can attract up to a million visitors.

Business owners at beaches have been taking a hit thus far as rides at Coney Island will be shut down and to-go only for concession stands.

And, nothing says happy birthday America more than scarfing down dozens of hot dogs at Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, which happens Saturday afternoon with no fans at an undisclosed location. There will also be limited competitors.

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