Image: Washington fireworks
Kristoffer Tripplaar  /  EPA
A fireworks display lights up the National Mall in the highlight of Fourth of July festivities in Washington, D.C.
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updated 7/4/2010 11:28:04 PM ET 2010-07-05T03:28:04

The nation's largest fireworks show lit up the skies in a burst of red, white and blue over the Hudson River straddling New York and New Jersey on Sunday, a scene that was being repeated in hundreds of communities in a sizzling end to a scorching day for much of the U.S.

"It's amazing on TV," said Marcos Jimenez, a golf caddy who joined thousands of others lining the riverfront for a prime view of the show. "I figured seeing it live would be even better."

Budget cuts forced some communities to pull the plug on the pyrotechnics, but the gigantic Macy's fireworks show went on as planned on Manhattan's West Side, where it moved in 2009 after eight years on the East River.

The show, which aired live on NBC, began just before 9:30 p.m. with huge fireballs exploding in the night sky to the strains of patriotic tunes like "Stars and Stripes Forever" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The shimmering fireworks that streaked across the night sky replaced a blazing sun that broiled nearly everywhere east of the Mississippi with temperatures in the 90s.

In Washington, vendors with stocked coolers hawked "cold," "ice cold," and even "super cold" bottles of water along Constitution Avenue as mid-afternoon temperatures reached the mid-90s. There was a long line for watermelon — $3 for a huge wedge — and near the Washington Monument, firefighters and U.S. Park Police officers sprayed hoses into the crowd.

"I just need some AC," said Brooke Fenske, 16, of Elgin, Minn. Fenske, in town for a 4-H trip, said it doesn't get this hot in her home state.

On Brooklyn's Coney Island, American Joey Chestnut won the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest for the fourth straight year, but one of his biggest rivals tried to crash the celebration and was taken into custody.

Six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who has not signed a contract with Major League Eating to be free to compete in contests sanctioned by other groups, went on stage after the competition. Police officers grabbed him, and he tried to hold onto police barricades as they took him into custody.

In Bellevue, Iowa, 24 people were injured at a parade after two runaway horses pulling a wagon took off, running into spectators along the streets, police said. The victims were as young as 2 years old and suffered injuries ranging from multiple fractures to collapsed lungs and bruises and abrasions.

In Washington, thousands gathered on the National Mall were treated to 17 minutes of fireworks, shot off behind the Washington Monument. Thousands of visitors sat on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the July 4 concert, featuring David Archuleta, Reba McEntire and the National Symphony Orchestra.

The Obama family celebrated the holiday by hosting members of the military and their families for a barbecue, concert and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn of the White House.

Image: Barack and Michelle Obama
Mike Theiler  /  Reuters
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wave from the balcony as they welcome military families to a barbeque on the South Lawn of the White House.

"Michelle and I couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate America's birthday than with America's extraordinary men and women in uniform and their families," President Barack Obama told the guests.

Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq on Saturday evening for the holiday weekend, his second visit there this year, and attended a citizenship ceremony at one of Saddam Hussein's former hunting lodges.

Festivities in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, will conclude Monday after 11 days of parades and concerts. The Goo Goo Dolls were headlining a free concert on Sunday night, which will be followed by a fireworks show.

There will be more than 40 firework displays in Los Angeles. One of the largest in the area is held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Fire crews have spread fire retardant on the nearby hillsides to prevent sparks from igniting brush fires.

Chicago traditionally celebrated a day early on July 3 with a fireworks display that drew more than 1 million people, but the show was canceled this year to save at least $500,000. The city will hold three smaller shows on Sunday.

In Seattle, local businesses and individuals donated the $500,000 needed for the city's 20-minute fireworks show, in which 3 tons of explosives will be set off over Lake Union.

In Durango, Colo., the fireworks display will go on thanks to embattled oil giant BP.

The company stepped forward in December to pay for the fireworks show, five months before oil began spilling from the spot in the Gulf of Mexico where one of the company's rigs exploded.

City officials were poised to cancel the $15,000 show because of a budget crunch but BP, which drills for natural gas in Colorado, offered to pick up the tab.

Associated Press writers Herb McCann in Chicago, James Beltran in Los Angeles, Rebecca Santana in Baghdad, and Lauren Sausser in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Fourth of July celebrations

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  1. The Empire State Building, illuminated with red, white and blue lights, is backlit by fireworks exploding over the Hudson River during the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show on Sunday. The display is the largest of hundreds of shows across the nation. (Jason DeCrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fireworks explode over Washington, D.C., as the United States celebrates its 234th birthday. Seen from left are the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. (Cliff Owen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Savannah Hogue, 2, of Severna Park, Md., dips a toe in a fountain near the Washington Monument on a hot Fourth of July afternoon in Washington, D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Guest John Robson wears a 13-star 'Betsy Ross' American flag bowtie while attending U.S Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson's Fourth of July party in Ottawa. (Pawel Dwulit / The Canadian Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watch the Marine Band perform during a barbeque for members of the military, government employees and their families on the South Lawn of the White House. (Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Melissa Poirier, center, from St. Petersburg, Fla., grabs a raft from her fiancé, Kenny Niel, at North Shore Park while waiting to see if the weather will cooperate for the Fourth of July fireworks in downtown St.Petersburg. Their friend, Gabrielle Rush, relaxes on a raft in the background. (Shadd, Dirk / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An American flag is seen through rain drops on a windshield Sunday in Salina, Kan. Rain canceled or postponed many Fourth of July events in the area. (Tom Dorsey / Salina Journal) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dressed to represent Uncle Sam, Steve Myott, of Greenville, N.C., shakes hands with visitors from atop his stilts near the U.S. Capitol on the National Mall in Washington, before the start of the Independence Day parade. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Students from Cameron, N.C., practice their routine on the National Mall in Washington before the start of Independence Day festivities. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Joey Chestnut appears to be suffering during Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York on July 4. Chestnut, the world-record holder with 68 hot dogs downed in 10 minutes, won after swallowing 54. His biggest rival, Takeru Kobayashi, didn't compete due to a contract dispute with Major League Eating. Subsequently, Kobayashi was arrested for attempting to hop a barricade and get on the stage after the event. (Theo Zierock / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. People chow down outside the original Nathan's Famous after the 2010 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York's Coney Island. (Michael Nagle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Bob Johnson poses for family photos at his home in Racine, Wis., on July 4. This is the third year that Johnson has displayed his late brother Dan's historic flag collection for Independence Day. (Mark Hertzberg / Journal Times) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: America throws itself a birthday party

  1. Transcript of: America throws itself a birthday party

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: properly pay a birthday tribute to a nation as young and eclectic as ours? The answer, says NBC 's Lee Cowan , just about every way imaginable.

    LEE COWAN reporting: There are more than 1300 words in the Declaration of Independence , and it seems there are just as many ways to celebrate.

    Sports Announcer: He has just eclipsed 12,000 calories.

    COWAN: Although exactly what cramming 54 hot dogs down your throat has to do with independence is a bit puzzling. And who would've thought that spitting a cherry pit some 50 feet would be a good way to honor one of the most famous documents in the world? But, as traditions go, they're beloved, just like all the others.

    Unidentified Man: Happy Fourth!

    COWAN: From parades to backyard barbecues, patriotism is having a field day , and our second president would have loved every second. John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail long ago that he hoped today would be honored "with guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other." He certainly got his wish, and more. It's a uniquely American holiday , like Thanksgiving ; and instead of counting our blessings, we count our freedoms and those who fight for them. Soldiers' homecomings this weekend were particularly poignant, sacrifices honored and remembered. And there were reminders everywhere that the promise of this country still draws those from beyond our borders, to take the oath of citizenship. Deuce Lutui , here from Tonga , was already living the American dream . He's a star in the NFL , plays for the Arizona Cardinals , but the dream was incomplete without his US citizenship .

    Mr. DEUCE LUTUI: I'm here to wear this American flag proudly and become an American.

    COWAN: Becoming American is what independence was all about, a proud experiment started 234 years ago that continues to this day. So whether it's gorging on hot dogs , marching in parades or just sporting red, white and blue, do what John Adams suggested and honor independence the best way you know how. Lee Cowan, NBC News, Los Angeles .

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: That's NBC NIGHTLY NEWS for this Sunday. Happy Fourth , everybody. Don't miss the fireworks on the "Macy's Fourth of July Spectacular " tonight at 9, 8 Central here on NBC . Brian Williams will be here tomorrow. I'm Lester Holt reporting from New York . For all of us here at NBC News , good night.

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