Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Security features big on July 4th

THREAT As Americans celebrated their most patriotic holiday concerns that they might be the victims of terror attacks meant massive security

DPA , WASHINGTON

Takeru Kobayashi, center, of Nagano, Japan, poses with 53 1/2 hot dogs after winning the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating contest, on Sunday in New York. Kobayashi, the number one eater in the world broke his previous record of 51 1/2 hot dogs by eating 53 1/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

PHOTO: AP

Americans made their way through security checkpoints in New York and Washington to claim seats early for massive Fourth of July fireworks displays in the two East Coast cities Sunday.

The fireworks shows were two of the biggest in the country, capping a day of festivities in the two cities on the US's most patriotic holiday.

Communities across the country held their own celebrations -- traditional events from picnics to hot dog eating contests to watermelon seed-spitting competitions - making the country's 228th birthday.

Authorities said there were no specific threats against the Washington or New York pyrotechnic events. But they nevertheless warned Americans to be vigilant, noting that terrorists might seek to strike on a symbolic day such as July 4 to inflict mass casualties. No incidents were reported.

Early afternoon rain in Washington forced the cancellation of most of an Independence Day parade. Before the rains fell actors dressed in 18th century costumes read the Declaration of Independence, the document that expressed the unanimous decision of the 13 American colonies' rejection of British rule in 1776.

Tens of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall despite the less-than-perfect weather. The 24th annual A Capitol Fourth concert featuring singers Clay Aiken, Amy Grant and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, along with the National Symphony Orchestra and the US Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, started ahead of the fireworks show.

The show was broadcast to US military personnel in more than 135 countries by the American Forces Radio and Television Network.

More than 3,000 shells -- 7 tons of explosives -- were launched in the fireworks display, according to Scott Goins, one of the organizers, in an interview with Fox News. The show lit up the sky between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

An estimated 1,000 shells will be set off in the final 30 seconds, Goins said.

But New York City's show was even bigger, reports said, and was viewed by an estimated 1 million people.

On New York's Coney Island, Takeru Kobayashi won his fourth consecutive Nathan's Famous hot dog eating competition Sunday. The 26-year-old of Nagano, Japan broke his own previous world record, wolfing down 53 1/2 wieners in 12 minutes. He broke his own previous world record set in 2002 by three dogs.

At the site known as Ground Zero, scene of the collapsed World Trade Center towers, the mood was sombre, as the cornerstone was laid for a new building. Etched on the granite slab are the words: "To honour and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom."

In Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress passed the Declarati of Independence, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was presented with the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at a ceremony at Independence Hall. Karzai took over Afghanistan after the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

Across the country, Americans celebrated in other traditional ways. A rodeo was scheduled in Fort Vancouver, Washington; in Bricktown, Oklahoma, 16 white doves - one for each of the Oklahomans who died in Iraq or Afghanistan -- were released; and the Wichita Eagle reported on an area Kansas location that celebrated Independence Day 1870s-style, including an apple pie-eating contest and a saloon that served sarsaparilla.

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