A fast moving thunderstorm that hit Statesboro about 4:30 Saturday afternoon delayed the Firecracker Fest at Mill Creek Park, but didn’t dampen the annual celebration of the Fourth of July. By the time the fireworks show started at 9:15, the park was jammed with thousands joining in the giant party for the 239th birthday of the United States.
Mike Rollins, director of the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department, which organizes Firecracker Fest every year, said the early arriving crowds were quickly moved to safety as the storm hit.
“Our employees did the job they were trained to do to keep everyone safe,” Rollins said.
“But after the rain, it really cooled things off and we couldn’t have asked for a better evening for the community to come out and share in the celebration together.”
And around the rest of the nation, parades, fireworks, naturalization ceremonies, eating contests and music ushered in Independence Day Saturday. Here were some of the highlights of celebrations from across the country:
Music, cultural celebrations on National Mall
Heavy rainstorms drenched the region around the White house Saturday, forcing a cancellation of an annual July Fourth picnic for military members and their families on the South Lawn.
Still, many festivities in Washington proceeded as scheduled, including a fife and drum corps, parade and concerts on the National Mall.
As morning rains cleared, the capital's Fourth of July parade kicked off. The parade featured marching bands, floats and balloons with plenty of red, white and blue.
The U.S. Air Force Band performs Saturday evening on the Washington Monument grounds. The big event is the "Capitol Fourth" concert on the west lawn of the Capitol, featuring Barry Manilow and the National Symphony Orchestra. President Barack Obama was scheduled to make brief remarks prior to fireworks.
A 15-year-old girl won the women's division of the 42nd annual cherry spitting contest in Eau Claire, Michigan, by sending a pit farther than anyone else: 49¼ feet.
"I just took a deep breath and pushed hard," said Megan Ankrapp of Buchanan. "I was shocked."
Kevin Bartz won the championship with a spit of 48 feet and 8 inches. Ankrapp was not allowed to participate in the overall championship round because her earlier spits were too short to qualify.
Bartz said he was excited to finally beat Brian Krause, the 2014 champ, but then realized a teenager had sent a pit farther than he did.
"I look up and say, 'Wait a minute. One of the girls beat me,'" said Bartz, 48. "It's not quite as exciting."
New citizens sworn in
Naturalization ceremonies big and small were held across the U.S.
The director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Baltimore district administered the oath of allegiance to 40 people from 27 countries during a ceremony at The Engineers Club in Baltimore.
In Plymouth, Vermont, 20 people became U.S. citizens at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. The great-granddaughter of President and Mrs. Coolidge sang the national anthem.
Officials say over 4,000 new citizens were welcomed in more than 50 naturalization ceremonies across the country from July 1 through July 4.
Presidential hopefuls campaign in parades
Parades across Iowa and New Hampshire were clear reminders of the race for the White House: Red balloons promoting "Jeb! 2016," a tractor draped in a Rick Perry banner and dutiful volunteers holding signs and chanting.
Former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island as well as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham worked the crowd in Amherst, while Hillary Rodham Clinton marched in a parade in New Hampshire's North Country. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spent the holiday in New Hampshire's Lakes Region, as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley met voters in Iowa.
Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest
Matt Stonie devoured 62 wieners and buns in 10 minutes to upset Joey "Jaws" Chestnut in the annual hot dog eating contest at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, breaking Chestnut's bid for a ninth straight victory.
Stonie beat Chestnut by two wieners. Both are from San Jose, California. The third-place finisher ate 35 hot dogs.
Defending champion Miki Sudo won the women's division by devouring 38 wieners and buns in 10 minutes. She downed four more hot dogs than last year and bested Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas of Alexandria, Virginia, who ate 31 wieners.
Visitors to the National Archives building in Washington were invited to sign replicas of the Declaration of Independence.
Some signed with a quill pen while others used modern writing instruments.
The National Archives — which houses the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights — also hosted a reading of the Declaration of Independence by re-enactors portraying Abigail Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington.
In America's birthplace: Concerts, a parade and beer
Philadelphia marks the holiday with a Celebration of Freedom ceremony, a parade through its historic district and a concert and fireworks on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The Celebration of Freedom is the 50th anniversary of a protest outside Independence Hall that is a milestone in the fight for gay rights.
The concert features performances from Philadelphia's own The Roots, Miguel and Jennifer Nettles.
Boston Pops feature 42nd show
Gospel singer Michelle Brooks-Thompson performs the national anthem as Keith Lockhart celebrates his 20th year as conductor for the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular Saturday.
The star-studded event at the DCR Hatch Cell in the city's Back Bay off the Charles River Esplanade also features Broadway star Michael Cavanaugh, "American Idol" finalist Melinda Doolittle and "America's Got Talent" finalist Sons of Serendip, a quartet whose members met at Boston University.
Drum and bugle corps, the Boston Crusaders and the USO Show Troupe will also perform.
Events, televised and broadcast live in Boston, begin at 8 p.m. Fireworks start at 10:30 p.m.
Tributes for the troops
Military personnel were invited to visit the Cincinnati Zoo for free on Saturday, while nearly 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait were getting a slice of pizza compliments of Chicago-based Pizza 4 Patriots.
In all, 5,500 pizzas donated by Buffalo-based Rich Products were delivered by DHL Express.