Photos: America celebrates July 4

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  1. A couple kisses during the Independence Day fireworks display in Independence, Iowa July 4. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Fireworks explode over the Philadelphia Museum of Art during an Independence Day celebration Monday, July 4, in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Spectators watch as fireworks light up the night sky behind the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse Monday, July 4, in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Fireworks light up the sky over the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument as the U.S. celebrates its 235th Independence Day in Washington, D.C., July 4. (Hyungwon Kang / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fireworks illuminate the night sky and are reflected in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument at right on Monday, July 4, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Empire State Building, illuminated with red, white and blue lights is seen from across the East River in the Queens borough of New York, backlit by fireworks exploding over the Hudson River during the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show on Monday, July 4, in New York. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Spectators watch the annual Independence Day fireworks over the Hudson River, Monday, July 4, in New York. A portion of Manhattan's west side is closed to vehicular traffic, allowing pedestrians to camp out and wait for the 40,000 shells to be launched after dusk from a barge on the river. (John Minchillo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of the United States military hold onto a giant flag displayed for the national anthem during pre-game ceremonies prior to the New York Mets' National League baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Calif., July 4. (Alex Gallardo / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. President Barack Obama, joined by first lady Michelle Obama and members of the armed services, delivers remarks at the South Lawn of the White House on July 4 in Washington. Obama hosted an Independence Day barbeque for members of the military and White House staff and their families. (Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Air Force Tech Sgt. Marquis Mullins and his daughter Anya listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Independence Day barbeque. (Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Jason Utgaard, 26 from Salt Lake City, second from left, and friends celebrate the holiday skiing Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah, dressed from head to toe in red, white and blue. Snowbird was open for the Fourth of July for only the third time in history. (Lynn Debruin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. American Legion Post 6 Adjutant Tommy Omer salutes after lighting a pallet of American flags during a "flag retirement" ceremony held at the Madisonville, Ky., post on July 4. During the ceremony, flags are honored by a color guard for their service. (Jim Pearson / The Messenger via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lyle Luloff, 93, sits atop his tractor during the Independence Day Parade in Independence, Iowa. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Billy Carpenter, of Greenville, S.C., waves a U.S. flag as four F-16 fighter jets from Shaw Air Force Base fly over the South Carolina coast for the Salute from fhe Shore, event at Litchfield Beach near Pawleys Island, S.C. (Charles Slate / The Sun News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Children and adults march in the Barnstable Fourth of July parade in Barnstable Village, one of America's oldest settled towns founded in 1639 on Cape Cod, Mass. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A man dressed as Uncle Sam entertains the crowd during the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York's Coney Island. Joey Chestnut won the men's competition by eating 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes; Sonya Thomas won the women's event by eating 40 hot dogs. (Ramin Talaie / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scout troops carry a large American flag during the LibertyFest Fourth of July parade in Edmond, Okla. (Sarah Phipps / The Oklahoman via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Spectators lining Nevada Way shoot water guns at passing floats during the 63rd Annual Boulder City Damboree Parade, July 4, in Boulder City, Nev. The last half of the parade entrants are called Water Entrees, making them fair game for water fights with spectators. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Ten-year-old Austin Kelley, right, watches as floats and other entrants roll along Nevada Way in the 63rd Annual Boulder City Damboree Parade in Boulder City, Nev. (Julie Jacobson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/4/2011 11:45:27 PM ET 2011-07-05T03:45:27

The nation's most extravagant display of July 4 fireworks Monday was a triumphant celebration that turned solemn briefly to commemorate the 10-year mark since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world streamed to Manhattan's West Side to see the pyrotechnics show over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, featuring more than 40,000 shells exploding in choreographed, multicolored progression.

"It's beautiful," said Rosa Riveras, a 57-year-old health educator from northern Manhattan, as bursts of light filled the sky. "It's amazing. I'm loving it."

NBC ran an exclusive broadcast from a pier along the river, with Nick Lachey of the show "The Sing-Off" hosting. Viewers got pre-recorded performances by Beyonce, filmed in front of the Statue of Liberty, and country music star Brad Paisley. Then the fireworks lit up the sky, tightly choreographed to a half-hour soundtrack from Katy Perry, LeAnn Rimes, Jennifer Hudson and other artists.

Beth Cochran of Scottsdale, Ariz., was with two childhhood friends from Fishkill, N.Y. The group of three periodically broke into renditions of "God Bless America" and other patriotic songs."

"We do not take friendship or freedom for granted," said Cochran, wearing an American flag tank top. "I'm proud to be an American."

John Woods, a 52-year-old information technology consultant from Wimbledon, England, said he appreciated the diversity of the crowd, which included many immigrants and tourists from around the country and abroad.

"I think it's just a celebration of being an American," he said.

Slideshow: America celebrates July 4 (on this page)

The show, sponsored by Macy's, paid tribute to the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty's debut in New York Harbor. Fireworks blasted off from six barges along the river to heights of 1,000 feet.

As "Amazing Grace" was sung, bursts of golden fireworks lit up the sky to pay tribute to victims of 9/11. Big cheers broke out in the crowd during the finale.

All across the country, Americans marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating.

Thousands showed up near the Washington Monument to eagerly await the annual fireworks show on the National Mall, while others were throwing on Hawaiian shirts and shorts to ski the still-snowy slopes at resorts from California to Colorado.

Earlier in the day on New York's Coney Island, the annual Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog-eating contest brought out the biggest names in competitive eating for a clash that was short in timespan but high in calories.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., wolfed down 62 hot dogs and buns during the 10-minute contest, winning his fifth straight title. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas chowed her way to victory in the first-ever women-only contest, eating 40 hot dogs, one shy of her 2009 total.

Story: Chestnut wins fifth straight hot dog eating title

In Boston, the annual Boston Pops concert was a must. In Akron, Ohio, the Rib, White & Blue Food Festival was enticing. And then, there were Nevada's casinos, which promised a pyrotechnics extravaganza that could be a gambler's best bet.

At the mountaintop home to Thomas Jefferson in Charlottesville, Va., officials continued a nearly five-decade-old tradition of swearing in new U.S. citizens. Seventy-seven people took their oaths during a naturalization ceremony at Monticello.

Telling U.S. troops that "America is proud of all of you," President Barack Obama marked the holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.

The president and his family — wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia — greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.

Story: Petraeus hails US troops in Afghanistan as patriots

"You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy," Obama said.

"You've done everything we could've asked of you," he said, also recognizing the "families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion."

This is the third year the first family has celebrated July Fourth with service members and their families. Obama told his guests Monday that the occasion was "a chance to get out of the uniform, relax a little bit and have some fun."

Red, white and blue lanterns decorated trees on the South Lawn and miniature American flags adorned more than 50 tables spread across the yard. Children wearing face paint in the patriotic colors played with balloon animals.

Providing the music for the celebration: rock band Train, singer-songwriter Amos Lee and the U.S. Marine Band.

The holiday also marked Malia Obama's 13th birthday .

Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues

U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, of Minnesota, marched in a parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. In New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman both marched in the Amherst parade. Businessman and GOP hopeful Herman Cain skipped the parades but threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Manchester, N.H.

"Aside from the politicking and the handshaking and the enthusiasm that our campaign is determined to generate in this state, we're going to reflect on what it means to be an American," Huntsman told reporters. "To share inalienable rights, to share our Constitutional privileges."

There were also fireworks mishaps Monday, including at least one death in Oklahoma after fire officials said a 20-year-old man was struck in the throat by a rocket-type firecracker. In Kansas, fireworks were blamed for starting at least one house fire in the Topeka area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Soggy weather putting damper on celebrations

  1. Closed captioning of: Soggy weather putting damper on celebrations

    >>> wild weather around the country ruining fourth of july celebrations. strong thunderstorms in washington, d.c., forcing them to evacuate the capital mall . in st. louis the fireworks were canceled. mike seidel joins us with a look with your july 4th forecast many folks bringing out the umbrellas. i hope it's not the case today. what do you have?

    >> there will be more storms today. a lot of unhappy campers because they canceled the maroon 5 concert. fireworks display tonight in washington. we don't expect anything like last night. there's a slim chance of a thunderstorm. most of them should be out of the way by the time sundown rolls around. very heavy rainfall in st. louis from evansville to cincinnati. this will be the focus of storms this afternoon. we think the rain in st. louis will be over by mid afternoon and the weather will turn around for the better for those of you at the arch. here is your national forecast. the storm is along the front. the main threat hail and high winds . with the southeast, heat and humidity. the chance of rain is only 30% in most of these areas. new york city is fine. the western part of the country is generally dry. the monsoon kicked in. it's bringing moisture from the gulf of california and the gulf of mexico . it was is 118 in phoenix on saturday, 112 yesterday. today, one degree below average. a lot of fireworks displays have been canceled because of the draught. back east, 88. we'll get the fireworks in along the hudson and the harbor. back to you.

    >> for all the folks who have to battle the soggy hamburger buns, at least they can enjoy another way by watching fireworks on tv. thank you so much.

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