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America Marks 225th Birthday Party

July 5, 2001

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Movie stars recited the Declaration of Independence, rockets burst in the air and parades snaked through the nation’s streets as America celebrated its 225th birthday.

``I’m dressed for the occasion,″ said Dave Howell, wearing his stars and stripes vest as he strolled among thousands of revelers at Myrtle Edwards Park on Seattle’s waterfront. ``We’re taking in all the festivities and enjoying the atmosphere.″

In Philadelphia, a million people turned out Wednesday to hear singer Garth Brooks perform and actors such as Mel Gibson, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder and Whoopi Goldberg read the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the city’s art museum.

``Scholars believe Jefferson meant for the Declaration to be performed, not just read,″ actor Morgan Freeman said. ``Its words and rhythm were written to be spoken in proud and defiant terms in grand public places.″

New lives were celebrated when 23 foreign-born orphans adopted by American families joined in the oath of citizenship at an Independence Day naturalization ceremony at Miami Beach, Fla.

The children _ hailing from Guatemala, Kazakstan, Argentina, Russia, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Thailand and Paraguay _ waved the stars and stripes while standing on the shoulders of their proud parents.

``The greatest privilege in the world is to be a citizen of the United States,″ said Miami Beach Mayor Neisen Kasdin who then translated the phrase into Spanish.

The holiday, though, was not without tragedy. A 2-year-old boy slipped from a float and was crushed to death as he rode in an annual Fourth of July parade in Douglasville, Ga.

In Atlantic City, N.J., seven people were rescued from a fireworks barge after a blaze launched exploding shells into the air. People on the shore mistook the accident as part of the annual show.

And lightning was blamed for injuring 14 people _ three playing horseshoes at a holiday picnic in Odenton, Md., seven on Beer Can Island, Fla., and four in Jacksonville, Fla.

Elsewhere, Americans celebrated overcoming adversity.

In the town of Siren, Wis., about 3,000 people attended a parade, which came 16 days after a tornado killed three people and destroyed 400 homes in the county.

``I think our spirit is finally lifted,″ said Judi Radel-Triss of Siren. ``This turnout restores our belief that nobody in this town is going to give up.″

Lt. Shane Osborn, the Navy pilot who crash landed his spy plane on a remote Chinese island in April, served as grand marshal of a parade in Atlanta.

``It’s good to be back in the United States,″ said Osborn, who was held for 11 days in China along with the plane’s 23 other crew members. Coincidentally, his EP-3E plane, now in pieces, arrived in Georgia on Thursday.

In Texas, Dallas festivities were sprinkled with references to the role of Buffalo Soldiers in America’s independence while San Antonio honored Spain’s contribution to the American Revolution.

At a frankfurter eating contest in New York, a 131-pound Japanese man inhaled a record 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, leaving competitors with their jaws agape: Takeru Kobayashi, at a scrawny 5-foot-7, had doubled the old record of 25.

``I have never seen anything like this before,″ said Tom Maher, a spokesman for the Nathan’s-sponsored International Federation of Competitive Eating. ``He has truly redefined the sport.″

Later in the day, more than 20,000 pyrotechnic shells, creating shapes including peacocks, rosettes and waterfalls, lit up the New York skyline as 100,000 pounds of fireworks went up from four barges.

New this year was a microchip implanted into some of the shells to control the timing of the explosions _ used to accent the musical segment set to the theme of ``2001: A Space Odyssey.″

Some 400,000 people packed Boston’s waterfront to listen to the Boston Pops July Fourth concert, featuring Cyndi Lauper, folk singer Arlo Guthrie and actress Debbie Reynolds.

``This is the quintessential American experience. We have all these different people from everywhere around the world all hanging out together and getting along together,″ Guthrie said.

And while most North Carolinians celebrated Independence Day with fireworks and cookouts, people in Whiteville were busy rewriting the Declaration of Independence.

Around 1,000 residents kneeling shoulder-to-shoulder furiously scribbled phrases or signatures from the 1776 document on a roll of paper 1 1/4 miles long.

``This is what the Fourth is all about,″ Whiteville Mayor Anne Jones said. ``It shows that patriotism is still alive and well in America.″


On the Net:

National Archives’ text of Declaration of Independence: http://www.nara.gov/exhall/charters/declaration/declaration.html