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Weather may play a role in today's festivities

Friday, July 04, 2014 - Updated: 9:51 AM

The Associated Press

The United States marks 238 years as an independent nation as it celebrates the Fourth of July with fireworks, food and music. Here are some highlights:

HISTORY

The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Second Continental Congress of the 13 colonies, meeting in Philadelphia. The tradition of celebrating July Fourth with fireworks, parades and speeches spread from Philadelphia to other cities and towns across the new nation. Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870.

FIRE IN THE SKY

The Macy's Fourth of July fireworks show in New York City is the nation's largest. Macy's says more than 1,600 shells will be launched per minute during the 25-minute display over the East River. Other major fireworks shows include those in Chicago on Lake Michigan and in San Francisco over the San Francisco Bay.

WEATHER WORRIES

The first hurricane of the season, Arthur, forced many East Coast cities to switch the dates of their Fourth of July celebrations. Boston officials moved the annual Boston Pops July 4 concert and fireworks from Friday to Thursday. Then they cut short the concerts so the fireworks could begin. Shortly after the dazzling display thundered to a close, a drenching rain began falling. Meanwhile, several cities in Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey moved their fireworks show to either Saturday or Sunday. Augusta, Maine moved its fireworks to Aug. 2.

When it crossed North Carolina's Outer Banks late Thursday, Arthur narrowly missed becoming the first hurricane to make landfall on July Fourth, according to National Hurricane Center research that dates to the 1850s.

PARADES

Fourth of July parades were planned around the country. One of the largest, Washington's National Independence Day Parade, kicks off on Constitution Avenue and features marching bands, floats and giant balloons.

INSPIRING MUSIC

Also in Washington, composer John Williams is to debut a new arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" featuring choirs, trumpets, an orchestra and cannons on the National Mall.

A soloist normally performs the national anthem for the annual "Capitol Fourth" celebration, but this year Williams will lead the National Symphony Orchestra, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the Joint Armed Forces Chorus and the Choral Arts Society of Washington in performing the new arrangement.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the national anthem. Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the flag over Baltimore's Fort McHenry in September 1814 after a 25-hour British bombardment.

GLUTTONY ON THE FOURTH

The Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island featured defending champion Joey Chestnut, who ate 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes last year. Chestnut, of San Jose, California, has said he prepares for the contest by fasting for three days to stretch the muscles in his esophagus.

FIREWORKS FATALITY

A trailer loaded with fireworks exploded Thursday morning near a Texas high school, killing one person and injuring three other people who were setting up for a Fourth of July show, a fire official said.

Comanche, Texas, fire Lt. Marcus Nettleton said it was unclear what caused the explosion in the trailer, which was hooked to a pickup truck.

     

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