America celebrates July 4 with hot dogs and barbecues amid tightened security

  • A massive flag is carried along the route of the Independence Day Parade on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC.
  • Cousins Ann Claire Schenkel, left, and Greer Shenkel dance around Aurora Circle in the spray of a fire hose after a fourth of July parade in High Point Terrace, Tenn. on July 4, 2015.
  • Fans gather at The Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y. on July 4, 2015.
  •  Exhausted and overheated High School band members who had been part of the parade cool off in a huge wind machine blowing cold water on a side street at the end of the parade on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC.
  • Actors march as they reenact a battle of the US Independence War in Macharaviaya on July 4, 2015. It’s the seventh time that the village of Andalusia pays tribute to local military leader Bernardo de Galvez for his role helping the Thirteen Colonies to fight for independence in United States of America.
  • Thousands of tourists and spectators wait on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for fireworks over the National Mall for Fourth of July celebrations in Washington on July 4, 2015.
  • A beauty pageant contestant at the end of the parade on July 4, 2015 in Washington, DC.
  • Two women wrapped in an American flag walk to Coney Island, N.Y. on July 4, 2015.
  • The Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks explode along the East River from the One World Trade Center Observatory on July 4, 2015 in New York City.
  • Five-year-old Adrian Rivera waves a sparkler as fireworks go off at Kirby Park on July 4, 2015 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
  • Spectators watch Fourth of July fireworks from the Stratosphere hotel and casino on July 4, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nev.
  • A woman waves an American flag as she rides in an antique pickup truck through Barnstable Village on Cape Cod, during the annual Fourth of July Parade in Barnstable, Mass., July 4, 2015. 
  • Children in revolutionary war era costumes march through Barnstable Village on Cape Cod, during the annual Fourth of July Parade celebrating the country’s Independence Day, in Barnstable, Mass., July 4, 2015. 
  • People hang from the Sky Flyer ride at the State Fair Meadowlands during a Fourth of July fireworks display, July 3, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. 
  • Police officers patrol Times Square, July 3, 2015. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered heightened security across the state over the U.S. July Fourth holiday weekend. 
  • Music legend Barry Manilow performs during “A Capitol Fourth: 2015 Independence Day Concert” on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on July 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. 
  • Juggling entertainers perform at the 4th of July party hosted by the US Embassy in Berlin at Tempelhof Airport on July 3, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. 
  • A young girl waves a flag during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert at the Hatch Shell in Boston, July 3, 2015. 
  • Fireworks shoot from the top of the Hatch Shell during rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert in Boston, July 3, 2015. 
  • Police units with bomb-sniffing dogs deploy before rehearsal for the annual Boston Pops orchestra Fourth of July concert on the Esplanade in Boston, July 3, 2015. 
  • United States ambassador to Ankara John Bass hosts a reception given for the 239th anniversary of US independence at his official residence in Ankara, Turkey on July 2, 2015. 
  • Deaconess summer campers, from left, Emma Griffin, Isabelle Bohleber, Molli Sullivan and Zoey Howell strike their best poses for the judges at the Fourth of July costume contest, July 2, 2015. 
  • Bottle rockets are advertised on a sign outside the Tennessee Alabama Fireworks stand in Jasper, Tennessee, June 29, 2015. 
  • An employee rings up a customer’s order at the Fireworks Supermarket store in Jasper, Tennessee, U.S., June 29, 2015. 

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Americans marched in star-spangled parades, ran relay races, gathered for fireworks shows and crowned a new world hot dog eating champion as they celebrated Independence Day in traditional style on Saturday.

Possible security threats, wildfires in the West and rainy weather on the East Coast apparently did little to dampen the spirits of celebrants decked out in red, white and blue from their headbands to their shoelaces.

Crowds at Boston’s Old State House erupted in applause and cannons shot out tri-color confetti after the annual July Fourth reading of the Declaration of Independence.

Later, thousands flocked to the Charles River Esplanade for the annual Boston Pops concert and fireworks. Krystle O’Brien, 27, wore an American flag cowboy hat and passed out glowsticks.

“It’s a good day for Boston,” she said. “There’s so much history here, we can celebrate this freedom.”

In Maplewood, New Jersey, Meskie Hyman, 11, exuded patriot pride in a star-spangled shirt and a hairband with two American flags that fluttered under cloudy skies.

“I love that it’s a free country and we have the right to speak. It lets us see everyone’s potential and find our heroes,” she said.

The crowd in Washington, D.C. watched a parade of brass bands, law enforcement motorcycle units, high school drum majorettes, antique cars and police and military detachments.

The National Mall, an open area west of the Capitol and site of a fireworks display expected to draw hundreds of thousands, was soggy from steady rain that had stopped by the time the parade started.

Kearston Andrews, 26, traveled with her family from near Gainesville, Florida, unworried about security.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert this week asking local authorities and the public to remain vigilant for possible threats following recent calls for violence by leaders of radical Islamist group Islamic State.

In New York City, the nation’s biggest police force assigned about 7,000 officers and nearly all its counterterrorism personnel to handle security around Independence Day events.

No incidents were reported as of late Saturday, but tens of thousands of spectators crowded onto the banks of Manhattan’s East River to watch fireworks shot from barges.

Even after promising an increased presence at weekend events, Massachusetts State Police maintained a holiday spirit, tweeting with a colloquial Boston phrase early Saturday “Have a wicked safe 4th of July!”

In a stunning upset on Coney Island, 23-year-old newcomer Matt Stonie grabbed the famed mustard-colored champion’s belt after gobbling 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes in the annual Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Stonie, of San Jose, California, ousted long-time champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who still holds a world record of 69 franks eaten in 2013. Miki Sudo hung onto the women’s title, downing 38 hotdogs in 10 minutes.

WILDFIRES AND SHARKS

On the U.S. West Coast, which is battling wildfires, communities in Washington state and Oregon restricted or banned fireworks for fear of more blazes. Cupertino, California, and Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, also canceled firework shows.

In downtown Los Angeles, thousands of revelers poured into Grand Park to enjoy music and food before a fireworks show.

“I’m Mexican, so I’m thankful to be born here, and being able to celebrate your heritage but mix with the diversity of other cultures too,” said Erica Moussa.

A celebration in Austin, Texas featured country music legend Willie Nelson at an all-day picnic replete with music and drinking.

And in Oklahoma, the record to beat at the “Watermelon Seed Spittin’ World Championship” in Pauls Valley, about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Oklahoma City, was 66 feet, 11 inches (20.41 meters), set in 1989 by Jack Dietz of Chicago, organizers said.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography 

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