By FIONA ROBERTS
Red white and blue: Fireworks explode over the Hudson River in New York
The nation's most extravagant display of July 4 fireworks was a triumphant celebration that turned solemn briefly to commemorate the 10-year mark since the September 11 attacks.
Tens of thousands of people from all over the world streamed to Manhattan's West Side to see the pyrotechnics show over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey, featuring more than 40,000 shells exploding in choreographed, multicolored progression.
The show, sponsored by Macy's, paid tribute to the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty's début in New York Harbour. Fireworks blasted off from six barges along the river to heights of 1,000 feet.
Cheer up, it's a party! President Barack Obama picks up a child as he greets military families during Independence Day celebrations on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington
As 'Amazing Grace' was sung, bursts of golden fireworks lit up the sky to pay tribute to victims of 9/11. Big cheers broke out in the crowd during the finale.
Today President Barack Obama hosted a barbecue at the White House, while thousands of revellers camped out by the Washington Monument to catch a glimpse of the annual fireworks display.
Big Apple: The Empire State Building is illuminated with red, white and blue lights from across the East River in New York
Capitol: The Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington is lit up as fireworks burst in front of the Washington memorial
Spectacular: A view of fireworks above the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Memorial and Memorial Bridge on the National Mall in Washington
'It's beautiful,' said Rosa Riveras, a 57-year-old health educator from northern Manhattan, as bursts of light filled the sky.
'It's amazing. I'm loving it.'
Stunned: Spectators watch fireworks explode over the Hudson River from 42nd street New York
Star-studded event: Beyonce rehearses before the annual Macy's fireworks show in New York tonight, in which 40,000 fireworks exploded from the Hudson
NBC ran an exclusive broadcast from a pier along the river, with Nick Lachey of the show The Sing-Off hosting.
Viewers got pre-recorded performances by Beyonce, filmed in front of the Statue of Liberty, and country music star Brad Paisley.
Then the fireworks lit up the sky, tightly choreographed to a half-hour soundtrack from Katy Perry, LeAnne Rimes, Jennifer Hudson and other artists.
Beth Cochran of Scottsdale, Ariz., was with two childhhood friends from Fishkill, N.Y. The group of three periodically broke into renditions of 'God Bless America' and other patriotic songs.'
Gaze: People watch as fireworks are shot over the National Mall in Washington, DC from along the shore of the Potomac River
Getting ready: A military colour guard prepares for the playing of the National Anthem during the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert rehearsal last night
Thanks: U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle stand with U.S. servicemen
The president and first lady Michelle Obama greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
'You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,' Obama said.
'You've done everything we could've asked of you,' he said, also recognizing the 'families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.'
This is the third year the first family has celebrated July Fourth with service members and their families.
Walkabout: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk from the Truman Balcony as they go to greet members of the crowd
Go Bulls: President Obama greets a man who identified himself as a fellow Chicagoan at the White House's Independence Day barbeque
Heave! President Obama holds up a baby as he greets members of his staff and military servicemen and women
Our nation tis of thee: Young woman roar with delight as they await fireworks near the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington DC
Distant celebration: U.S. soldiers eat a Fourth of July-themed lunch in honour of Independence Day at Camp Clark in Mandozai district, Khost province, Afghanistan
Celebration: U.S. soldiers cut an Independence Day cake in the Mandozai district, left, and right, outgoing U.S. commander General David Petraeus gives a speech to 235 soldiers re-enlisting in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. It's his last Fourth of July in uniform
Far-flung patriotism: U.S. guided-missile destroyer U.S.S McCampbell (DDG 85) sails past the Opera House in Sydney, Australia on the Fourth of July
Obama told his guests Monday that the occasion was 'a chance to get out of the uniform, relax a little bit and have some fun.' Red, white and blue lanterns decorated trees on the South Lawn and miniature American flags adorned more than 50 tables spread across the yard.
Children wearing face paint in the patriotic colours played with balloon animals. Providing the music for the celebration: rock band Train, singer-songwriter Amos Lee and the U.S. Marine Band.
The concert was presented by the USO in its 70th year of providing support for Americans in the military.
Iconic: Fireworks illuminate the night sky and are reflected in the Potomac River with the Washington Monument
The scorching heat has put a dampener on July the Fourth celebrations in the South and West, after firework displays were cancelled in many towns in New Mexico, Texas and Georgia amid fears they could spark wildfires.
Instead, they joined millions who tuned in to the New York show, entitled 'Gift of Freedom', in which more than 40,000 fireworks were ignited on floating barges on the city's West Side.
Stars including Beyonce and Brad Paisley performed, in a display which paid tribute to the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.
Stunning display: Light from the fireworks show on the roof of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas is reflected in the water
Starting early: Tourists watch Independence Day weekend fireworks explode over Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as the Bellagio fountain show plays in the foreground
Patriotic day: Caden and Lauren Lackey, both five, watch the LibertyFest Fourth of July parade in Edmond, Oklahoma
Small town, big party: A couple kiss during the Independence Day fireworks display in Independence, Iowa
Performers also commemorated the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks with an emotional rendition of Amazing Grace.
Bill Schermerhorn, the show's creative director, said: 'Since 1886, the Statue of Liberty has proudly stood in New York Harbor at the gateway to the American dream.
'This year's show will reflect both the united pride of our nation and the variety of our dreams, with light-hearted celebratory songs and emotional patriotic standards. It's a birthday celebration for all of us.'
World-famous contest: A huge crowd gathers to watch in Coney Island as the extreme eaters battle it out for the the hot dog eating crown
Extreme eating: Sonya 'The Black Widow' Thomas, right, triumphs against Juliet Lee after eating 40 hot dogs at the annual contest in Coney Island
Champions: Joey 'The Jaws' Chestnut and Sonya 'The Black Widow' Thomas celebrate after winning the men's and women's competitions at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York
Getting into the holiday spirit: Spectators gather with patriotic t-shirts and flags before the start of the annual hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, New York
Anticipation: Excited fans gather to see if Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut can claim the hot dog eating title for the fifth consecutive year
Meanwhile in Coney Island, the biggest eaters from around the world will gather for the annual Nathan's July Fourth hot dog eating contest. For the first time, the firm will sponsor separate competitions for men and women, who will split the $20,000 prize money.
Joey 'Jaws' Chestnut of San Jose, California, will be hoping to claim the title for the fifth consecutive year. Last year he wolfed down 54 hot dogs and buns in the ten-minute contest.
Celebrations also started early in Afghanistan, where the outgoing U.S. commander, General David Petraeus, marked his last Fourth of July in uniform by speaking to his troops during a re-enlistment ceremony in the south of the country.
4th of july .. in new york ! independence day fireworks !
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