Hot dog contest, fireworks, beaches mark U.S. July 4 holiday


Americans celebrated the July Fourth holiday on Tuesday with the reopening of a New Jersey beach closed to everyone but the governor after a government shutdown, a record-setting hot dog eating contest and fireworks displays across the country.

Beachgoing, baseball and fireworks, Fourth of July traditions, were embraced throughout the country, along with family cookouts that favored hot dogs and hamburgers. An informal peace-and-love festival in an Oregon forest drew more than 13,000 people including two men who died of apparently natural causes.

The United States commemorated the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the 13 American colonies on July 4, 1776. The document proclaims unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

New Jersey and Maine ended partial government shutdowns just in time for the holiday.

A deal between Governor Chris Christie and legislative leaders allowed New Jersey to reopen parks and beaches, including Island Beach State Park, where the Star-Ledger newspaper on Sunday captured photos of Christie with family and friends. The beach was otherwise deserted because of the shutdown, prompting a barrage of internet satires placing Christie in his beach chair at famous beach scenes from D-Day to the "Planet of the Apes."

An unapologetic Christie told reporters he would rejoin his family in the governor's residence at Island Beach State Park once the budget was signed.

Major League Baseball had a full schedule of 15 games in mostly packed stadiums across the country. Another type of competition, rapid-fire eating contests, also took place nationwide, including one for hot dogs in Coney Island, Brooklyn, that was shown live on national television.

Joey Chestnut won his 10th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest by downing a record 72 frankfurters in 10 minutes.

In Washington, Molly Schuyler defended her title by chowing down 21 Z-Burger hamburgers in 10 minutes, Washington's WTOP television reported.

More than 13,000 people gathered for an informal peace-and-love celebration in Oregon's Malheur National Forest, where two people died of nonviolent causes, a spokeswoman said.

Professing no leaders and no organization, the Rainbow Family Gathering marked July Fourth with "care-taking of mother earth, nonviolence and living a compassionate and loving life," according to a blog.

A 72-year-old man died on Monday and a 20-year-old man collapsed and died on Tuesday, forest spokeswoman Traci Weaver said.

A doctor administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the 20-year-old for 15 to 20 minutes but could not revive him, Weaver said.

There were 15 arrests, mostly for driving under the influence, drugs, or disorderly conduct, in addition to 108 violations and 432 warnings.

Visitors were both rowdy and respectful, Weaver said, and the large crowd inevitably degraded the forest with trash, waste and trampling.

"We're concerned about redband trout that are spawning in the creeks nearby," Weaver said. "Our big concern is what the long-term impact will be."

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Jeffrey Benkoe)