- Associated Press - Monday, July 4, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — The United States marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating.

Thousands were showing up near the Washington Monument to eagerly await the annual fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, while others were throwing on Hawaiian shirts and shorts to ski the still-snowy slopes at resorts from California to Colorado.

In Boston, the annual Boston Pops concert was a must. In Akron, Ohio, the Rib, White & Blue Food Festival was enticing. And then, there were Nevada’s casinos, which promised a pyrotechnics extravaganza that could be a gambler’s best bet.

On New York’s Coney Island, the annual Nathan’s Famous July Fourth hot dog-eating contest brought out the biggest names in competitive eating for a clash that was short in time span but high in calories.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., wolfed down 62 hot dogs and buns during the 10-minute contest, winning his fifth straight title. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas chowed her way to victory in the first-ever women-only contest, eating 40 hot dogs, one shy of her 2009 total.

At Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson near Charlottesville, Va., officials continued a nearly five-decade-old tradition of swearing in new U.S. citizens. Seventy-seven people took their oaths during a naturalization ceremony at the mountaintop site.

Muhtar Kent, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Coca-Cola Co., spoke to the new citizens.

“With each generation, immigrant and native-born Americans have come together, shoulder to shoulder, to propel our ongoing, benevolent cycle of rebirth and renewal,” said Mr. Kent, a citizen of both the United States and Turkey who was born in New York. “And you will do the same.”

The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s elder daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others, however, as President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn of the White House.

Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Mr. Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota marched in a parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. In New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. both marched in the Amherst parade.

“Aside from the politicking and the handshaking and the enthusiasm that our campaign is determined to generate in this state, we’re going to reflect on what it means to be an American,” Mr. Huntsman told reporters. “To share inalienable rights, to share our constitutional privileges.”

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