© Reuters. Daniel Flanagan and Zhadyra Darbayeva enjoy the weather at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, USA, July 3, 2021. REUTERS / Mary F. Calvert
By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Americans celebrated their nation’s 245th birthday on Sunday with fireworks that may look brighter, hot dogs that may taste juicier, and marching bands that may sound more cheerful after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of almost all celebrations last year.
As always, fireworks are the highlight of the 4th of July holiday. Two of the nation’s largest fireworks displays will take off on the National Mall in Washington and over a mile-long stretch of New York City’s East River, which separates Manhattan from the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn.
Despite being curtailed by COVID-19, Nathan’s famous hot dog eating contest in Brooklyn’s Coney Island thrilled socially estranged crowds when reigning champion Joey Chestnut broke his own world record by eating 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. . That was one more than he gobbled up last year and marked his fourteenth win.
This year’s Independence Day holiday, following 600,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 and amid a surge in the more aggressive Delta variant, was a time for Americans to show their patriotism and celebrate a personal sense of freedom as you mingle with friends again and enjoy the simplicity of summer. pleasures.
But the occasion was not entirely carefree. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned state and local police last week of an increased threat of violence from domestic extremist groups amid relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and the July 4 holiday.
It was expected to be the busiest road trip holiday on record on July 4, with an estimated 43.6 million Americans behind the wheel, or 5% more than a previous record set in 2019, the American Automobile Association said. .
At Independence Hall in Philadelphia, First Lady Jill Biden told the crowd, “The clouds have broken” after a long and sad winter of isolation fighting COVID-19 along with efforts to meet the goal of her husband to get 70% of American adults to have their first chance. for the 4th of July. The government put the number at around 67%, as some people have resisted getting vaccinated.
“We haven’t reached the finish line yet, but summer has never felt so full of possibilities, and doesn’t the air smell much sweeter without our masks?” said the first lady.
Unvaccinated attendees are required to wear a mask at an evening celebration for 1,000 people on the White House lawn that President Joe Biden and the first lady host for essential workers and military families, authorities said. [L2N2OG0FZ]
The U.S. Secret Service said authorities removed barriers at the White House that were erected in recent years to increase security. The change allows visitors to get to the fence around the White House.
The president will host the event three days after his visit to Surfside, Florida, to comfort families whose loved ones were in a condo tower that collapsed on June 24. Several Florida communities canceled their July 4 fireworks out of respect for those affected by the tragedy. , city officials said. [L2N2OD0UI]
The vacation was an opportunity for Aleksandra Magidoff, a 12-year-old girl from Brooklyn, to travel to a New Jersey suburb to reconnect with a longtime friend and her family. They were among the more than 3.5 million people who have moved out of New York, once the epicenter of COVID-19 in the US, since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.
“I’m very excited, I can talk to them and celebrate with them and just socialize.” said Magidoff, who was fully vaccinated under the huge blue whale model at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The girls planned to gorge themselves on “loads of hamburgers and hot dogs” before attending the fireworks show at a New Jersey fairgrounds, he said.
Last July 4, he watched fireworks from the rooftop of his apartment building while under pandemic lockdown, and was only allowed to celebrate with his immediate family.
Earlier on Sunday in Washington, marching bands came out in a traditional parade on Capitol Hill’s Barracks Row. As night falls, the National Mall was expected to draw large crowds to a 17-minute fireworks display from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool (NASDAQ :).
On the East River in New York, 50 pyrotechnicians have spent days loading more than 65,000 projectiles onto five barges to surprise audiences who see the spectacular show in person or on television. The exhibit is presented by Macy’s Department Store (NYSE :).
Lighting up the night sky not only delights crowds, but promises to restore a lifeline this year for companies that supply the 16,000 July 4 fireworks that typically occur in cities and towns. Last year, only “a few scans” were done with the program, said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
“About 70% are scheduled to return, and many will be higher and better than pre-pandemic levels,” Heckman said.
But for some, the holidays were bleak.
In addition to the blanket that the pandemic and a building collapse in Florida have thrown over the country, the western United States faces an increased risk of wildfires after a scorching heat wave and extremely dry conditions. Nationwide supply chain failures linked to the pandemic have driven up prices for everything from household items to fireworks.