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By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters)

Americans celebrated their nation’s 242nd anniversary of independence on Wednesday, with concerts, parades and a voracious display of hot dog-eating prowess in New York, as many cities and towns held fireworks displays after sundown

But the holiday was marked by a widely televised protest at the Statue of Liberty against ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A woman scaled the statue’s pedestal, where she sat for four hours until police brought her down. Police said it was unclear if she was part of the protest against ICE and charges were pending.

 

Two children ride on a mini all terrain vehicle down Main Street during the annual Fourth of July parade in Barnstable Village
Two children ride on a mini all terrain vehicle down Main Street during the annual Fourth of July parade in Barnstable Village on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Also, two people died and several others were injured Tuesday evening in Rock Island Illinois after a large tree branch fell on them, police reported in local media.

At the White House, President Donald Trump hosted a picnic for military families on the South Lawn during the afternoon, a few hours before fireworks lit up the National Mall.

 

Children in costumes march down Main Street during the annual Fourth of July parade in Barnstable Village
Children in costumes march down Main Street during the annual Fourth of July parade in Barnstable Village on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

 

Independence Day festivities held in Washington featured a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra on the lawn of the Capitol, where “Margaritaville” singer Jimmy Buffett, The Temptations, The Beach Boys and Luke Combs performed.

The Fourth of July holiday marks the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by congressional delegates in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

The document declared the young nation‘s independence from Great Britain and advanced the principle “that all men are created equal,” and had “certain unalienable rights” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

More than two centuries later, however, it was the pursuit of hot dogs that defined the holiday at Coney Island on the waterfront of New York’s borough of Brooklyn, where Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and restaurants held its 46th annual hot dog-eating contest.

 

Joey Chestnut wins the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, setting a new world record by eating 74 hot dogs in Brooklyn, New York City
Joey Chestnut wins the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, setting a new world record by eating 74 hot dogs in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Yang

 

Joey Chestnut once again dominated the competition. The 34-year-old from San Jose, California, won his 11th “Mustard Belt” by downing an astonishing 74 wieners – topping the record of 72 he set last year.

In the women’s division, Miki Sudo, 32, of Las Vegas, won her fifth title by putting away 37 hot dogs.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

Heat and humidity hung over the competition, as well as much of the country. The National Weather Service issued heat advisories for the Plains states eastward to the Mid-Atlantic region. Temperatures hit the 90s with the humidity making it feel like 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (40-43 degrees Celsius).

On a day that features countless patriotic parades nationally, the pro gun control group Moms Demand Action held several marches around the country, including one in Webster Groves, Missouri, where Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill joined them.

 

A Massachusetts State Police trooper stands at the Hatch Shell ahead of Fourth of July festivities in Boston
A Massachusetts State Police trooper stands at the Hatch Shell ahead of Fourth of July festivities in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

 

“It was hot! But wonderful,” McCaskill said on Twitter.

New York put on an evening fireworks display that ranks as the country’s largest, according to Macy’s, the retailer that sponsors the annual event.

More than 3 million spectators and 12 million television viewers watched 75,000 shells illuminate the night sky over the East River to the music of singer Kelly Clarkson.

 

A girl wipes her face as she awaits the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump at a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
A girl wipes her face as she awaits the arrival of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump at a picnic for military families at the White House.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

Bostonians celebrated with the Boston Pops along the Charles River, joined by pop vocalist Rachel Platten.

Because of wildfires in southeastern Colorado and drought in the Denver area, most area communities cancelled public displays of fireworks, officials said.

Los Angeles held fireworks, as well as a concert and other celebrations at the Hollywood Bowl. Up the coast, San Franciscans watched fireworks on the bay near the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

 

In recent years, law enforcement agencies have been on the alert for suspicious activity during the holiday celebrations. Officials said they took extra precautions this year, but have not detected any credible security threats.

An Ohio man was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of planning to detonate a bomb at Cleveland’s Fourth of July celebrations.

 

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Rich McKay in Atlanta and Keith Coffman in Denver; editing by Frank McGurty and G Crosse)

 

Military families watch fireworks celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
Military families watch fireworks celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump stand on the Truman Balcony during the National Anthem as fireworks celebrating Independence Day begin at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump stand on the Truman Balcony during the National Anthem as fireworks celebrating Independence Day begin at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

People stand during the National Anthem at a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
People stand during the National Anthem at a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump greet people during a picnic for military families celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 4, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

 

A Massachusetts State Police trooper stands at the Hatch Shell ahead of Fourth of July festivities in Boston
A Massachusetts State Police trooper stands at the Hatch Shell ahead of Fourth of July festivities in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

 

The words to "God Bless America" are displayed on a teleprompter during fireworks celebrating Independence Day at the White House in Washington
The words to “God Bless America” are displayed on a teleprompter during fireworks at the White House.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts