- - Sunday, July 4, 2010

The nation’s largest fireworks show exploded over the Hudson River in New York City in a burst of red, white and blue, one of hundreds around the country that were to bring sizzling ends to a scorching day for much of the U.S.

The annual Macy’s fireworks show started shortly before 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Thousands of spectators arrived early to stake out prime viewing spots along the Hudson.

“It’s amazing on TV,” said Marcos Jimenez, a golf caddy who joined thousands of others lining the riverfront for a prime view of the show. “I figured seeing it live would be even better.”

But tragedy struck at an Independence Day parade in Bellevue, Iowa, as a 60-year-old woman died of injuries sustained when two startled horses bolted during the town’s celebration and galloped through its streets pulling a wagon for several blocks.

Patrolman Brent Roling says the woman died Sunday evening at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City. He declined to identify her immediately. Twenty-four other people were injured when the horses took off during the parade in Bellevue, four of them critically.

The victims were as young as 2 years old and suffered injuries ranging from multiple fractures to collapsed lungs and bruises and abrasions.

Budget cuts had forced some communities to pull the plug on the pyrotechnics, but the gigantic Macy’s fireworks show continued on Manhattan’s West Side, where it moved in 2009 after eight years on the East River. And that move has brought with it a change in fortune for businesses, too.

The New York fireworks show will relocate to the Statue of Liberty next year in honor of Lady Liberty’s 125th anniversary and will move around after that.

The show, which aired live on NBC, began just before 9:30 p.m. with huge fireballs exploding in the night sky to the strains of patriotic tunes like “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Fireworks watchers were looking for a breather after a hot summer day. Temperatures reached the 90s nearly everywhere east of the Mississippi as well as in the Southwest, with much of the rest of the country seeing highs in the 80s.

In Washington, vendors with stocked coolers hawked “cold,” “ice cold,” and even “super cold” bottles of water along Constitution Avenue as midafternoon temperatures reached the mid-90s.

There was a long line for watermelon — $3 for a huge wedge — and near the Washington Monument, firefighters and U.S. Park Police officers sprayed hoses into the crowd.

“I just need some [air-conditioning],” said Brooke Fenske, 16, of Elgin, Minn. Brooke, in town for a 4-H trip, said it doesn’t get this hot in her home state.

Joseph Sciuto of the American Red Cross said his volunteers on the National Mall had helped treat about 300 cases of dehydration.

Thousands gathered on the National Mall were treated to 17 minutes of fireworks, shot off behind the Washington Monument. Thousands of visitors sat on the steps of the U.S. Capitol for the July 4 concert, featuring David Archuleta, Reba McEntire and the National Symphony Orchestra, among others.

The Obama family celebrated the holiday by hosting members of the military and their families for a barbecue, concert and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn of the White House.

“Michelle and I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with America’s extraordinary men and women in uniform and their families,” President Obama told the guests

On Brooklyn’s Coney Island, American Joey Chestnut won the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for the fourth straight year, but one of his biggest rivals tried to crash the celebration and was taken into custody.

Six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi, who has not signed a contract with Major League Eating to be free to compete in contests sanctioned by other groups, went on stage after the competition. Police officers grabbed him, and he tried to hold onto police barricades as they took him into custody.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in Iraq on Saturday evening for the holiday weekend, his second visit there this year, and attended a citizenship ceremony at one of the late dictator Saddam Hussein’s former hunting lodges.

Festivities in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, will conclude Monday after 11 days of parades and concerts. The Goo Goo Dolls headlined a free concert Sunday night, which was to be followed by a fireworks show.

From combined dispatches