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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
US & World News

Liberty reopening, firefighter tribute on July 4th

By COLLEEN LONG
The Associated Press

Published:

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NEW YORK - The Statue of Liberty, closed since the destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, will reopen to the public this Fourth of July as Americans across the country mark the holiday with fireworks and barbecues.

The National Park Service was expecting a large crowd for the holiday and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Liberty Island with federal officials and New York's mayor. Some repairs to brick walkways and docks are still underway, but much of the work has been completed since Sandy swamped most of the national landmark's 12-acre site.

The statue was spared in the fall storm, but Lady Liberty's little island took a serious beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers. Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.

Visitors to Lady Liberty will go through security on lower Manhattan, after city officials criticized an earlier plan to screen them at neighboring Ellis Island, which endured far worse damage to its infrastructure and won't be open to the public anytime soon. The damage to both islands was put at $59 million.

New Yorkers will also be treated to the annual fireworks display over the Hudson River with performances by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, and the Nathan's Original hot dog eating contest on Brooklyn's Coney Island. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut is seeking his seventh straight title - a world record. Last year he downed 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. But the Cyclone roller coaster and other attractions at the famed amusement park were closed going into the holiday after a 275-foot-tall observation tower swayed in the wind.

Personal fireworks remained banned in New York and were banned in New Mexico on state lands because of wildfires.

In Arizona, a carnival, parade, fireworks display and dance that draw thousands here each year will go on in Prescott but with sober tributes for 19 firefighters who died this week battling a blaze near Yarnell.

Boston prepared to host its first large gathering since the marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds, and Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans planned large holiday concerts.

In Washington, thousands of Americans plan to gather on the National Mall to watch a 17-minute fireworks display and listen to performances by Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and John Williams conducting music from the movie "Lincoln." New Orleans was hosting the Essence Music Festival stringing stages along the French Quarter. And Philadelphia was hosting what was billed as the "largest free concert in America," with John Mayer, Neo and Hunter Hayes, who was filling in last-minute for a sick Demi Lovato.

Not everyone was welcoming the masses - Hermosa Beach, Calif., was ramping up police patrols and making room in jails for revelers who in recent years have made the city an annual destination for celebrating independence with drunkenness and raucous behavior.

Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Hermosa Beach, Calif., contributed to this report.

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