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Americans Celebrate Independence With Parties, Fireworks

Spectators wave flags as the USS Constitution fires its cannons off Castle Island in Boston, Massachussetts, on its annual 4th of July turn-around in Boston Harbor, July 4, 2011

Americans are celebrating Independence Day on Monday - the anniversary of the day the country's founding fathers declared independence from Britain in 1776.

On the day known informally as the Fourth of July, U.S. citizens celebrate with parades, picnics, ball games, and concerts. Fourth of July decorations feature the colors of the American flag - red, white, and blue.

Watch a related Chris Simkins video from Washington, DC

Traditional fireworks lit up the nighttime skies over small towns and major cities, including New York and Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed. In the nation's capital, Washington, thousands of people gathered on the National Mall for the annual fireworks display and concert featuring popular recording artists.

One hundred new U.S. citizens were sworn in at Mount Vernon outside Washington, the home of the first U.S. president, George Washington. The current president, Barack Obama, hosted members of the military and their families for an evening White House barbecue and concert featuring the U.S. Marine Band.

On a lighter note, New York City's beach resort area, Coney Island, celebrated July 4 with an annual hot dog-eating contest. Contenders had 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs and buns as possible. World champion Joey Chestnut won for the fifth year in a row, eating 62 hot dogs. The women's winner, Sonya Thomas, ate 40 hot dogs.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia in June 1776, the Declaration of Independence is the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress formally approved a resolution of independence from Britain. Then, it set about making revisions to Jefferson's draft declaration, finally approving the document on July 4.