Independence Day Filled With Concerts, Parades and Politics - NBC Connecticut
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Independence Day Filled With Concerts, Parades and Politics

Highlights from celebrations around the country

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    Audience members cheer during the dress rehearsal for the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular in Boston, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.

    The national holiday to mark America's birth as a country has been filled with parades, concerts, competitive eating and, of course, fireworks.

    Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, New York and other places around the country are holding massive celebrations with big name artists like Jennifer Hudson, Luke Bryan and Carole King.

    But Independence Day won't be free from politics, as President Donald Trump's plan for a celebration in Washington featuring a display of tanks , fighter jets and a stealth bomber is garnering support from some and protests from others.

    Highlights from celebrations around the country:

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    THE BIGGEST SHOW

    Fireworks over New York's East River lit up the Brooklyn Bridge, a display said to be one of the biggest in the country. As they waited for the show to start, people watched New York Police Department helicopters in a procession along the river.

    Carmela Serino, a college student from Queens, said she liked how the crowd in Brooklyn Bridge Park reflected the diversity of the city. People were wearing everything from tank tops to burkas and chatting in Spanish, Japanese, Telugu, and a host of other languages.

    Christina Garza, a flight attendant from Maine, agreed.

    "With what's going on with politics these days, it's so nice to see this. No one's arguing, no one's fighting. We're just gathered on this turf," she said.

    As the sun set, red, white, and blue lights shone from several buildings in Lower Manhattan and along the Brooklyn waterfront.

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    The fireworks spectacle, plus concert, is broadcast on NBC and this year features country powerhouses Luke Bryan, Maren Morris and Brad Paisley, as well as Jennifer Hudson, Ciara, Khalid and Derek Hough.

    POPPING OFF

    Boston is marking Independence Day with a traditional procession, speeches, a Boston Pops concert and fireworks.

    Festivities began Thursday morning at City Hall with a brief speaking program. Marchers then set off for the Old Granary Burial Ground where Samuel Adams, John Hancock and other prominent colonial leaders are buried.

    They also made a stop at the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence is read out from a balcony by a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company — just as it was in 1776.

    The procession ended at Faneuil Hall where Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore delivered a speech in a tradition dating to 1773.

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    The Boston Pops orchestra performs at night with fireworks over the Charles River as a backdrop.

    HISTORIC CELEBRATION

    The nation's oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration took place in Bristol, Rhode Island. The events began on Flag Day and culminated with a parade on July Fourth that drew tens of thousands. The annual celebration began in the seaside town in 1785.

    THE NATION'S CAPITAL

    A soggy, cheering crowd of spectators listened to President Donald Trump pay tribute to the U.S. military on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial.

    Trump's speech unfolded in occasional rain, and the warplanes and presidential aircraft he had summoned conducted their flyovers as planned, capped by the Navy Blue Angels aerobatics team.

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    Supporters roared, but protesters also assailed the show, saying it put the president center stage on a holiday traditionally devoted to unity.

    By adding his own, one-hour "Salute to America" production to capital festivities that typically draw hundreds of thousands anyway, Trump became the first president in nearly seven decades to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day.

    Earlier in the day, Washington held its traditional Fourth of July parade.

    PBS is broadcasting a concert from the West Lawn of the Capitol featuring host John Stamos and performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, Carole King, Vanessa Williams, Colbie Caillat and Lee Brice.

    NEW CITIZENS

    Around the country, more than two dozen naturalization ceremonies will be held to welcome in the newest Americans in places like the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia and George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia.

    Vice President Mike Pence celebrated Independence Day by welcoming 44 immigrants into "the American family" in a naturalization ceremony in the nation's capital.

    Pence said it was "deeply humbling" to stand on "the hallowed ground" of the National Archives in Washington before the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He told the new U.S. citizens, who hail from 26 other countries, that he and President Donald Trump were extending to them "the welcome of the American people."

    "Congratulations to you all," he said.

    FOR THE KIDS AND KIDS AT HEART

    At Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida, children can help create a giant United States flag out of LEGO bricks on July 4 as part of the Red, White and Boom celebration. Once the sun goes down, special viewing glasses will allow guests to watch "a gazillion bricks explode from the sky" above Lake Eloise during the theme park's largest fireworks display of the year.

    In Orlando, Walt Disney World is hosting a special show called Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky on Thursday night.

    AMERICA'S BIRTHPLACE

    In Philadelphia, the celebrations begin with a parade near Independence Hall and culminate with a concert featuring Meghan Trainor and Jennifer Hudson on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The annual fireworks show blasts off after the concert around the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Police say 33 people protesting treatment of migrants and asylum seekers were cited after briefly interrupting the Salute to America parade in Philadelphia. The protesters, assembled by a group called "Never Again is Now," were demanding closure of border detention centers and the abolition of the immigration and customs agency.

    A DIFFERENT KIND OF BOOM

    Thousands watched Willimantic's annual Boom Box Parade in Connecticut. In what's become an offbeat tradition, participants and spectators carry radios all tuned to the same local station, which provides traditional marching music.

    The parade dates to 1986, when the town couldn't find a marching band for its annual Memorial Day parade. Organizers approached radio station WILI-AM for help. Station officials said it was too late to organize and publicize an event for that holiday, but began planning for July Fourth, and the tradition was born.

    EXPLODING ROCKETS

    Firefighters in South Carolina had to dodge exploding rockets to douse a spectacular fire that destroyed at least two containers of fireworks stored for sale on the Fourth of July.

    The blaze early Thursday provided for an impressive, though sparsely attended show as shells and rockets burst through the metal containers, sending colorful showers into the air above the Davey Jones Fireworks and the House of Fireworks stores in Fort Mill.

    BIG DOGS

    In New York City, Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo defended their titles to once again win at the annual Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest on the Coney Island boardwalk.

    Chestnut ate 71 franks and buns while Sudo chowed down 31. Both fell short of their records but easily took home the trophies.

    A 'KEY' WINNER

    A Key West man has won the Mile-High Key Lime Pie Eatin' Contest on the subtropical island where the pie originated.

    David Johnson plunged face-first into a 9-inch pie smothered with whipped cream during Thursday's challenge. The rules forbid contestants from using their hands.

    He consumed it in 58.2 seconds, besting 24 rivals in the kickoff of the annual Key Lime Festival.

    A TOXIC FOURTH

    Thousands of people were expected on Mississippi's beaches for the July Fourth holiday even though they can't go into the water because toxic bacteria are flourishing along the coast.

    The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has warned that polluted Midwest floodwaters have fed an outbreak of cyanobacterium. Popularly known as blue-green algae, it can cause rashes, diarrhea and vomiting.