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Fireworks light up sky for America's birthday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From Keystone Heights to Jekyll Island, Jacksonville Beach to Lake City, and even in backyards and cul de sacs across the First Coast, people capped off their Independence Day with fireworks.

People crowded northbank and southbank of the St. Johns River downtown to see Jacksonville's 15-minute choreographed display. 

Thousands more watched fireworks set off from the pier at Jacksonville Beach, over Matanzes Bay in St. Augustine, at Moosehaven in Orange Park, and dozens of other community displays.

Spectators at Jacksonville Beach commented on the length of the show -- nearly 30 minutes -- and how meaningful to be there to celebrate as a community.

GALLERY: Fireworks in Jacksonville, Jax Beach

While fireworks that explode or lift off are only supposed to be used for agricultural uses in Florida, pyrotechnics lit the skys and shook the windows of neighborhoods big and small.

As of 10:15 p.m., there were no reports of fireworks-related injuries in northeast Florida, although a man was hospitalized Tuesday afternoon in Fort Lauderdale after a firework went off in his hand, and a man in nearby Plantation lost a finger while handling a firework.

Jacksonville firefighters responded to at least one fireworks-sparked fire. A vacant building near the intersection of University Boulevard and St. Augustine Road was badly damaged when a firework was shot into a window and caught some trash on fire. (Full story)

At the Jacksonville Landing, which was limited to patrons 21 and older Tuesday night, the crowd enjoyed funnel cakes and pineapple drinks while waiting for the fireworks show.

Ed Leath owns the concession stand selling the pineapple drinks and said he sets up at the Landing every year.

"It was well worth the walk," said Nuguse Leath. "It's good. It tastes good."

After the fireworks show, traffic leaving downtown was worse than the afternoon rush hour, but as of 10:30 p.m., there were no reports of crashes or accidents involving pedestrians or bicycles.

Celebrating across the nation

Crowds of people lined up along New York City's East River for the annual Macy's fireworks show. The display involves 60,000 shells launched from up to five barges and performances by Jennifer Lopez, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and others.

Police set up barriers and checkpoints, and heavily armed officers stood guard.

Organizers of Chicago's Independence Day celebration were expecting such large crowds that the city's Navy Pier opened at 10 a.m., nearly 12 hours before fireworks were starting. Hundreds of thousands of people also were expected at Boston's fireworks show and Boston Pops concert.

A FIRST FOR THE PRESIDENT

For President Donald Trump's first Independence Day in office, he and first lady Melania Trump hosted a picnic for military families at the White House.

Rain threatened the event on the South Lawn but cleared up as Trump stepped out to address the crowd from a balcony. The Republican president pledged his "unwavering support" and told the crowd that he will "always have your back."

Before the picnic, Trump kicked off his holiday at his golf club in Virginia. He arrived at the club in Sterling just before 10 a.m. and spent nearly four hours there before returning to the White House. Aides did not answer questions about whether he was golfing.

DAYLONG PARTY IN PHILLY

In Philadelphia, where the Founding Fathers approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, there was a daylong national birthday party.

At a celebration of freedom ceremony at Independence Hall on Tuesday morning, members of Boyz II Men read excerpts from the document, and a parade was held through the city's historic area. Descendants of some of the signers of the Declaration were to take part in the annual ceremonial tapping of the Liberty Bell later Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended a party on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with hours of free music capped by a concert by Mary J. Blige. The festivities were to end with the annual fireworks display.

CALIFORNIA CELEBRATES WITH CLASSIC CARS

Decked out in red, white and blue, Californians waved flags and sang patriotic songs at Independence Day parades across the state.

Hundreds of people lined the streets under bright sunshine Tuesday for seaside Santa Monica's celebration, which featured bands and classic cars.

California's love affair with the automobile was also front and center at South Pasadena's parade, which had the theme "Freedom on the Road. Celebrating Route 66."

When the sun sets, the parties will continue with fireworks displays. Among the largest in the Los Angeles area will be the annual fanfare at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

To the north, officials are hoping clouds will clear in time for the big display over San Francisco Bay.

OBSERVING JULY 4th OVERSEAS

A bit of American sports culture was displayed in London's Hyde Park, where several former major leaguers competed in a home run derby. Major League Baseball aims to build interest in the sport in Britain and Europe, despite the region's longstanding preference for soccer.

The managing director of Major League Baseball for Europe, Charlie Hill, said the Independence Day exhibition is an attempt to "lay down roots" in Britain. He says it's possible that some official games will be played in London during the 2019 season.

Meanwhile, Denmark hosted the Rebild Festival, considered one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations outside the United States. Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen - who recently tweeted that Trump "should tighten up, focus on the struggle for freedom and show respect for the presidency" in response to Trump's own Twitter habit - told festival-goers that "when you are friends, you have the right to criticize."

Samuelsen added that it's "impossible" to live without the United States.

SENATORS CELEBRATE FOURTH WITH TROOPS ABROAD

Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says it was emotional and inspiring to spend July Fourth with troops in Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, led a group of senators to Pakistan and Afghanistan for the holiday weekend. They visited a military base in South Waziristan and met with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad before traveling to Kabul, Afghanistan.

Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, said in a phone interview from Bagram airfield on Tuesday it was emotional because service members in Afghanistan are constantly in harm's way and constantly making the nation proud.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue are on the trip. They met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY

Residents of the southern Utah ski resort town of Brian Head were planning a fireworks-free celebration, having returned home just this past Friday after a wildfire forced evacuations in the town two weeks earlier.

"None of us even knew if we were going to be open for the Fourth of July," Brian Head Resort spokesman Mark Wilder said.

The alpine town is near several national monuments and parks in Utah's red rock country. Brian Head is normally filled with vendors selling crafts and food on the holiday, one of the biggest celebrated at the resort and the start of the area's festival season, Wilder said.

But he said the town has suspended its fireworks show this year because the area is still too dry and ripe for fires.

"I'm sure people are disappointed with that, but better safe than sorry," Wilder said.

Meanwhile, at California's Squaw Valley ski resort, skiers were poised to enjoy a rare July Fourth on the slopes. It's only the fourth time the resort has ever been open in July.

PARADE FLOAT ACCIDENT

At the nation's oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration, a woman was hit by a parade float. WJAR-TV reports it happened at the parade in Bristol, Rhode Island. Bystanders said the woman was pinned under the float and onlookers helped lift it off her. The woman was hospitalized.

The Bristol parade was started in 1785. It's billed as the oldest continuous celebration of independence in the country and attracts about 100,000 people to the seaside town in a typical year.