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Americans celebrate July 4 in style after pandemic cancellations

NEW YORK, July 4 (Reuters) – Americans celebrated their country’s 245th birthday on Sunday with fireworks that may seem brighter, hot dogs that may taste juicier, and marching bands that may seem brighter. offhand after the coronavirus pandemic forced almost all celebrations last year to be canceled.

As always, the fireworks are the highlight of the July 4th party. Two of the nation’s largest fireworks displays will take place above the National Mall in Washington and along a 1.5-mile stretch of the East River in New York City, separating Manhattan from the neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn.

Some classic July 4th events such as Nathan’s famous hot dog-eating contest at Coney Island in Brooklyn have been kept small to allow for social distancing in recognition of the continuing threat of COVID-19, which has killed more than 600,000 Americans. The more aggressive Delta variant sounded the alarm on the potential for another increase among the unvaccinated.

Even so, this holiday was an opportunity for Americans to show their patriotism and celebrate a new sense of freedom in a personal sense by mingling again with friends and enjoying the simple pleasures of summer.

But July 4 of this year was not completely carefree. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week warned state and local police 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 July 4th road vacation on record – with an estimated 43.6 million Americans driving, 5% more than a previous record set in 2019, a said the American Automobile Association.

12-year-old Aleksandra Magidoff from Brooklyn traveled to a New Jersey suburb to reconnect with a lifelong friend and her family. They were among the more than 3.5 million people who have left New York City, once the U.S. epicenter of COVID-19, since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020. read more

“I’m so excited – I can talk to them and celebrate with them and just socialize!” said Magidoff, who was fully vaccinated under the enormous blue whale model at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The girls planned to binge on “a bunch of burgers and hot dogs” before attending the fireworks show at a New Jersey fairground, she said.

On July 4, she watched fireworks from the roof of her apartment building while on pandemic lockdown, allowed to celebrate with only her immediate family.

In Washington, masks must be worn by all unvaccinated people who are among 1,000 people attending President Joe Biden’s July 4 celebration on the White House lawn with essential workers and military families, have officials said. [nL2N2OG00N]

The president is hosting the event three days after his visit to Surfside, Florida, to console families whose loved ones were in a condo tower that collapsed on June 24. Several communities in Florida have canceled their July 4 fireworks out of respect for those affected by the tragedy. , said city officials. L2N2OD0UI

Elsewhere in Washington, marching bands descended on Sunday in a traditional parade through the barracks on Capitol Hill. As night fell, the National Mall was expected to draw large crowds for a 17-minute fireworks display set off from both sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

On New York’s East River, 50 pyrotechnicians spent days loading more than 65,000 shells onto five barges to wow audiences by watching the spectacular show in person or on television. The display is presented by Macy’s Department Store.

Lighting up the night sky not only delights the crowds, but also promises to restore a lifeline this year for the businesses that supply the 16,000 July 4th fireworks that typically occur in towns and villages. Last year, only the “rare few” continued with the show, said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.

“About 70% are expected to return, and many will be bigger and better than pre-pandemic levels,” Heckman said.

But for some, July 4th was dark.

In addition to the veil cast over the country by the pandemic and a building collapse in Florida, the American West faces an increased risk of wildfires after a scorching heatwave and extremely dry conditions. And nationwide supply chain issues linked to the pandemic have driven up prices for everything from housewares to fireworks.

Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York and Andrea Shalal and Mark Hosenball in Washington; edited by Diane Craft and Marguerita Choy

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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