The United States is 232 years old today
America is officially 232 years old today, and she's looking good for her age.
Americans across the country are celebrating today with fireworks, concerts, parades and contests and this a round up of the various events.
July 4, 1776, was the day delegates from the 13 original American colonies officially declared independence from Britain.
A concert and a giant fireworks show are annual holiday traditions in Washington, D.C., as is a hot dog eating contest at New York's Coney Island.
U.S. President George Bush welcomed 72 new U.S. citizens in a ceremony in Virginia at the home of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the country's third president.
President Bush's remarks were disrupted several times by shouting protesters. He responded by saying "we believe in free speech in the United States of America."
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is participating in a parade in Montana. Republican candidate John McCain is in his home state of Arizona.
Meanwhile, more than 1,200 U.S. troops serving in Iraq re-enlisted in Baghdad to mark the holiday.
U.S. military officials said it was the largest re-enlistment ceremony since the U.S. all-volunteer force started in 1973.
Some of the events that have already taken place today are:
Americans across the country mixed patriotism and plain old good fun to mark Independence Day on Friday, with solemn ceremony alternating with parades and hot-dog-eating hijinks.
On the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Boy Scouts in Hartford, Conn., rang a replica of the Liberty Bell, while organizers of the annual New York fireworks display promised the rockets' red glare would be better than ever.
Near Kissimmee, Fla., a wounded bald eagle, the national bird, was flying free after spending more than two months rehabilitating from a fight with another eagle. It was freed Thursday in Lake Tohopekaliga, the heart of Florida's eagle country.
In Boston, the 211-year-old USS Constitution, the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, was the backdrop Friday morning as two dozen people were sworn in as U.S. citizens.
Vice President Dick Cheney greeted the new Americans and later, in a second ceremony, administered the re-enlistment oath to a group of servicemen.
The Hartford ceremony was among several similar events being held across the country Friday by a group known as Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Thirteen peals, one for each of the original colonies, rang out from a replica Liberty Bell at the State Capitol.
Over 35,000 people celebrated Independence Day yesterday at Mount Rushmore with a spectacular firework display that lasted about 28 mintues.
Not sure why they celebrated it yesterday though.
The parking lot filled up early, as memorial officials provided a full day of entertainment for those spending the day at the famous faces.
Last night's fireworks display went off without a hitch, and the program lasted approximately 28-minutes.
Smoke from Canadian wildfires never did make it to the memorial, so for the first time in years, officials had no worries when the show began just after nine pm.
Mount Rushmore has been providing the annual fireworks display for 11-years.
Celebrations are under way in Philadelphia with the annual Fourth of July ceremony in front of Independence Hall, which is the very building where 56 Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
On Independence Mall, festivities got under way Friday morning with the annual Fourth of July ceremony in front of Independence Hall.
Mayor Michael Nutter led a group of local students in reading the Declaration of Independence in front of the very building where 56 Founding Fathers signed the document in 1776.
The annual reading, a Philadelphia tradition, took place under overcast skies and on-and-off rain.
Afterward, the National Parks Service began allowing free admission to Independence Hall.
"It's so meaningful to me to know just that they have this tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence," said Ellen West, who was visiting from Pontiac, Mich.
There are also plenty of other events within just a few blocks, and they all seem to involve food.
That includes all-you-can-eat ice cream at Penns Landing, where a $5 donation to charity gets you unlimited Ben & Jerry's, Haagen-Dazs and Philadelphia's own Bassetts Ice Cream. That's at Columbus Boulevard and Chestnut Street.
Then, there's the giant cake made of 10,000 little Tastykakes. That's at the Independence Visitors Center at 6th and Market streets at noon.
Also something a little different in the form of a big cheese carving. A one-tonne block of cheddar cheese (naturally) was carved into the 'signing of the Declaration of Independence'. It was displayed in Times Square yesterday, but is in the Independence Mall in Philadelphia today.
"It's very patriotic, using the signing of the Declaration of Independence, bringing Americans together for the Fourth," said Troy Landwehr, who carved the sculpture for cracker company Cheez-It to celebrate U.S. Independence Day.
He worked eight hours a day for a week in a 40-degree cooler carving the block of Wisconsin cheddar.
"The cheddar has been pasteurized and will not melt," Landwehr said. "What I spray on it is cooking oil and that stops it from drying out and cracking," he said. "That's why it looks sweaty. It actually preserves the cheese."
The replica of an iconic painting by John Trumbull shows John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin and others standing around a table signing the historic document.
In New York's Coney Island, viewers are gearing up to watch the annual Fourth of July hot dog competition, which is always a crowd-pleaser.
Takeru Kobayashi was trying to reclaim his title after a disappointing three-dog loss last year shattered his six-year winning streak.
After dark, more than three million people were expected to attend the nation's largest fireworks display along the East River, moved south this year so onlookers will get a better view of the world famous city skyline.
The 30-minute show, broadcast on NBC, was to be launched from barges in two areas. Some 30,000 shells were to be set off _ more than 1,000 per minute. Organizers said this year's show will include new nautical fireworks that float on the water. Other new shells will go through multiple transformations after they launch, providing four different effects.
Sonic Youth is giving a free concert today in Battery Park, and the Empire State Building is being lit up in red, white and blue to mark the occasion.
Harborfest takes place in Boston harbour, and they also have reading of the Declaraion of Independence.
While the 27th annual Harborfest may have kicked off Tuesday, Friday is the heart of the 200-event festival around City Hall.
From a reading of the Declaration of Independence at 10 a.m. at the Old State House to the Boston Pops concert at 8, barbecues take a back seat to history.
Other events include historical reenactments, fife and drum performances and luncheons out on Boston Harbor.
The firewoks display in Washington DC is one of the finest in the country and will take place tonight on the National Mall.
However, visitors gathering for the fireworks are having to deal with the weather at the moment.
Revelers who have been gathering on the National Mall ahead of tonight's Fourth of July celebrations are getting rained on.
So far, there hasn't been lightning or thunder, though other parts of the region are experiencing heavy storms.
Officials plan to use the public address system to tell people to take shelter in nearby museums if lightning threatens the area. They've had to evacuate the Mall a few times in recent years because of storms on the holiday.
The activities will begin at 9:15 p.m. The fireworks will be launched from the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and light up the sky over the Washington Monument.
You can also view the actual Declaration of Independence, rather than just hearing a reading of it.
Washington, DC's July 4th fireworks celebrations are one of the largest in the nation. In commemoration of Independence Day, the National Archives also allows for the viewing of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed on July, 4, 1776.
If you're in the Los Angeles area, the largest fireworks display is at the Rose Bowl with an old fashioned Independence Day parade taking place on Sunset Blvd, with a fireworks display after.
Also, Mr. and Mr.s Muscle Beach takes place on Venice Beach today, which is always a good time.
See more information on their website here.
America's Freedom Festival in Provo, Utah is one of the largest celebrations in the United States and it is always broadcast abroad to the armed forces so that they don't miss out on a little celebration of their own.
The Peachtree Road Race took place in Atlanta today and Terefe Maregu from Ethiopia took home the title.
Terefe Maregu of Ethiopia won the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta today, besting second-place finisher Peter Kamais of Kenya by 4 seconds in the 10-kilometer course.
Nataliya Berkut of Ukraine was the women's winner in a field featuring 57,000 runners, the nation's largest 10K event.
Maregu covered the 6.2 miles in 28 minutes, 30 seconds, ahead of Kamais, who finished in 28:34. Daniel Kipkoech of Kenya was third at 28:38.
And of course Disney gets in on the celebrations with a 'Concert in the Sky' over the Magic Kingdom, as well as firework displays at Epcot and Hollywood Studios. See some details here.
Here are some of the highlights of where this holiday comes from:
In 1777, thirteen guns were fired, once at morning and again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting. In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France. In 1779, July 4 fell on a Sunday. The holiday was celebrated on Monday, July 5. In 1781, the Massachusetts General Court became the first state legislature to recognize July 4 as a state celebration. In 1783, Moravians in Salem, North Carolina, held the first celebration of July 4 in the country with a challenging music program assembled by Johann Friedrich Peter. This work was titled "The Psalm of Joy". In 1791 was the first recorded use of the name "Independence Day". In 1870, the U.S. Congress made Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal employees. In 1941, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday. The residents of Vicksburg, Mississippi, celebrated Independence Day for the first time since July 4, 1863, when the Siege of Vicksburg ended with a Union victory during the American Civil War.
Are you at a Fourth of July celebration? We would love to hear what is was like and to see your pictures and videos!
Happy Independence Day America!