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Americans Celebrate July 4 Holiday

Americans are celebrating the July 4 Independence Day holiday with fireworks, parades and concerts.

Washington and New York are among the cities that will have spectacular fireworks displays Saturday night. Many small towns have been forced to scrap or scale back their celebrations because of the economic crisis.

In his weekly Saturday address, U.S. President Barack Obama encouraged Americans to "kick back" and "enjoy a little time off." But he also reminded people the country is facing challenges "on a scale unseen in our time," from the severe economic recession to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama said meeting the challenges will require "extraordinary effort on the part of every American," and he urged support for his plans to reform U.S. education, health care and energy policies.

The Fourth of July holiday marks the day in 1776 when the 13 original American colonies officially declared independence from Britain.

President Obama will celebrate Saturday with a Fourth of July event at the White House accompanied by military families.

The Public Broadcasting Service and the National Park Service will hold a free gala concert Saturday in front of the U.S. Capitol building. The performers, who include singers Barry Manilow and Aretha Franklin, treated spectators Friday to a full concert dress rehearsal.

New York's Coney Island holds its famed hot dog eating contest every year on the Fourth of July. The eat-off is broadcast nationally on the ESPN sports TV network.

Despite the money crunch, many Americans, whether at home or traveling, will find ways to relax and enjoy the holiday with outdoor summertime activities such as barbecues and beach parties, and spending time with family and friends.