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    Amid storms, politics, nation celebrates birthday

    Fireworks, food, and music fill out the holiday menu

    The Meadow Lake Senior Living Community in Tyler, Texas, held its annual Fourth of July golf cart parade on Friday.
    Sarah A. Miller/The Tyler Morning Telegraph via Associated Press
    The Meadow Lake Senior Living Community in Tyler, Texas, held its annual Fourth of July golf cart parade on Friday.

    NEW YORK — The United States marked 238 years as an independent nation Friday as it celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks, food, and music.

    Nature and politics also played a role this year, and Hurricane Arthur crashed holiday parties and fireworks displays along the East Coast.

    On the other side of the country, the first dust storm of the summer arrived in Phoenix, with blinding winds that canceled holiday plans, knocked out power to thousands, and grounded numerous flights.


    In New York City, tens of thousands of people crammed the narrow cobblestones of the South Street seaport and the closed lanes of a riverfront highway to watch the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show.

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    A brilliant 25-minute show of reds, whites, and blues lit up the sky from three barges on the East River, sandwiched between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. Macy’s says more than 1,600 shells were launched per minute during the display — the nation’s largest Fourth of July fireworks celebration.

    Other major fireworks shows were being held in Chicago on Lake Michigan and in San Francisco over the bay.

    Composer John Williams conducted a new arrangement of ‘‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’’ with choirs, orchestras, and cannons on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

    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.


    Thousands of people celebrated the Fourth in the nation’s capital under clear skies, despite initial fears rain could ruin their fun. Visitors to the Mall gazed at the White House and the Washington Monument and strolled through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured food, music, and demonstrations from various cultures.

    Later, a fireworks display set against the Washington Monument electrified the night sky.

    In Philadelphia, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the annual ‘‘Celebration of Freedom’’ ceremony at Independence Hall.

    He said the lessons of the civil rights movement show that the struggle for freedom that began in Philadelphia more than two centuries ago is not over.

    In Utah, about 8,000 members of counterculture group the Rainbow Family held the annual gathering’s celebration, officials from the US Forest Service said.


    Members joined hands in prayer for world peace at a camp ground near Heber City, releasing one big ‘‘om.’’ The ritual takes place every year on July 4th.

    The gathering has frayed nerves in Heber City, overloading the local jail with people charged with misdemeanors, officials said.

    A mobile federal courtroom rolled up to a meadow about a mile away from the expansive campsite.