Happy 4th of July America! While Hollywood rests and gives us zero casting news on this American holiday, the incomparable Perri Nemiroff from Movies.com has given us a fantastic look at how Independence Day might go down in Panem, …
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One word could describe visitors to the Capitol Fourth Concert Wednesday night: sweaty.
Despite high temperatures and the threat of thunderstorms, thousands of visitors from across the continent took part in Independence Day celebrations in the nation’s capital.
The Carter family from El Paso, Texas, set up lawn chairs facing the Washington Monument at 8:30 a.m. By 1 p.m., they still were stretched out in the shade of a tall tree, armed with umbrellas and water for the anticipated grueling sun that would steal their shade in the midafternoon.
At 4 p.m. a youth group from a church in New Brunswick, Canada, sang and played guitar in Franklin Square with a sign on their guitar case reading, “Need a dollar, take a dollar.” They planned to go to the fireworks on the National Mall as a break from a week of service work visiting Washington’s elderly and homeless.
The National Park Service urged attendees to use public transportation to avoid traffic during the holiday.
Unlike in years past, the Smithsonian Metro Station — the station closest to the Mall — remained open.
At 12:30 p.m. there already was a steady flow of visitors coming at Smithsonian, chugging water from plastic bottles. Three uniformed officers stood watching the crowd.
“Have your fare cards ready with the arrow pointing up,” one man yelled over the din.
A new communications service allowed the U.S. Park Police to send texts directly to visitors to Washington this Fourth of July and to warn them to take precautions to deal with the intense heat.
“Drink plenty of fluids, use sunscreen, and seek shade to ensure a safe and healthy July 4 celebration,” read a text sent through the newly-implemented Nixle service Wednesday.
Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks said the service was not new to police, but that they are the first federal agency to use Nixle.
Brooks named the temperature as one of the main concerns this year. The heat index on the National Mall was 100 degrees Wednesday afternoon.
Washington boasted a variety of events during the day including the annual parade and a playing out of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at the Jefferson Memorial. A Capitol Fourth Concert was scheduled to start on the Capitol west lawn at 8 p.m., ending at 9:30 p.m., the same time as the 20-minute fireworks show on the Mall.
Thunderstorms threatened to disrupt the evening’s Capitol Fourth Concert and fireworks, but National Park Service spokesman William Line said it would take more than a drizzle to shut down the festivities.
Hundreds of thousands from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic were preparing to spend the Fourth of July like America’s founders did in 1776, without the conveniences of electricity and air conditioning.
Power outages from Friday’s storm altered planned celebrations in a host of ways and left powerless residents grumbling that America’s birthday would hardly be a party. Cookouts were cancelled or moved to homes with power. Vacation plans were altered. Some residents without power said they weren’t in a holiday mood. And even some whose power had been restored said they had run out of steam to celebrate in the way they had planned.
Friday’s storm arrived with little warning and knocked out power to 3 million homes and businesses in states from West Virginia to Ohio and Illinois. Officials blamed 24 deaths on the storm and its aftermath, and power companies in some places estimated it could be the weekend before everyone’s power is restored. As of late Tuesday, more than 1 million homes and businesses remained without power.
As a result, power repairs were taking priority over parties in many parts. At least four planned fireworks displays were cancelled in Maryland because of the outages, with officials saying they couldn’t spare police and fire resources for the festivities.
In Rockville, Md., officials called off their celebration because trees and wires were blocking two of the three entrances to the college campus where fireworks were planned. In Gaithersburg, Md., Acting City Manager Tony Tomasello said his city, about 30 minutes north of Washington, cancelled its display because a power company is using its planned celebration location, a fairgrounds, as a staging area for repairs. Hundreds of bucket trucks park there when crews finish their 16-hour shifts, and transformers, gravel and poles are being stored there too.
“Everyone’s disappointed. We’re disappointed,” Tomasello said of cancelling the celebration, adding that it would be rescheduled.
In West Virginia, meanwhile, officials urged people to resist the temptation to set off fireworks at home because the risk of fire is too high. Many brown, crunchy lawns were already potential fuel, but the trees and limbs that fell during the storm have added even more tinder.
Some people affected by the storm were too tired or frustrated to think about fireworks, parties or planned holiday travel. Dennis Andrews, 62, of Ellicott City, Md., had planned to go to Myrtle Beach, S.C. But after spending 14 hours cutting trees that fell on his property, Andrews, who runs a construction equipment rental company, said he was ready to relax by the pool instead.
Other parties were toned down, cancelled or moved. LaJuan Barnett, 44, who runs a daycare in Waldorf, Md., planned a more modest celebration with hot dogs and hamburgers after throwing out at least $350 in spoiled food and spending another $200 on groceries Tuesday.
“We’re on a budget,” said Barnett, who got her power back on Monday night, after nearly 72 hours.
Power outages and spoiled food also changed the plans of Sharvey Smith, 39, of Baltimore. Smith had begun preparing for an Independence Day party before the storm hit, buying chicken and spare ribs and planning a small gathering on her back porch. But that food spoiled when her power went out, so her party is off.
She planned to spend Wednesday’s holiday at her parents’ house 10 minutes away, which has electricity, and where she and her family have been staying. But her patience is wearing thin.
“I want to go back home,” said Smith, adding that she calls the power company number three or four times a day to check on her power.
So far, the estimated time it will be back on is no earlier than Thursday.
The party Potomac, Md., resident James Gangler, a retired computer technician, planned to attend at his former boss’ house was cancelled because of the outage. Although the cancellation email was sent Saturday, Gangler didn’t see it until his own power returned Monday.
“I’m glad I saw it because I would have shown up there all by myself,” he said.
A nearby swimming pool has reopened and that’s where Gangler’s wife Anna plans to celebrate the Fourth. But Gangler said he’s looking forward to some cool relaxation at home.
“I’m just going to stay in and enjoy the air-conditioning and the quiet,” he said.
In other iconic Fourth of July places, though, plans remained unchanged.
Fireworks on the National Mall in Washington were going forward. At George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate in Virginia, where power was initially off for 12 hours after the storm, plans for birthday cake and ice cream making were on. And in Colonial Williamsburg, the restored 18th century Revolutionary capital of Virginia, there were plans to celebrate with fifes and drums, musket and cannon fire, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.
In Williamsburg, partying like it’s 1776, isn’t anything new, said spokesman Jim Bradley.
“In a sense we do that every day, no matter what the weather,” Brady said.