ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA - Independence Day is one of America’s favorite holidays and celebrated with a bang.
But most of the traditional parades, fireworks and festivals in many cities for the Fourth of July went by the wayside this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fireworks in some of the biggest cities such as Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago were canceled.
This week, New York is having short fireworks displays in different locations each night but not announcing when or where to discourage too many people from gathering. The grand finale is taking place on Independence Day at the Empire State Building.
Just outside Washington, D.C., Mount Vernon, the historic home of George Washington, America's first president, decided to hold its annual fireworks event that occurs the weekend before July 4.
Visitor Anne Hooper drove a couple of hours from Maryland to watch the fireworks light up the 18th century mansion in Alexandria, Virginia. Even though it only lasted about 10 minutes, Hooper was thrilled.
“This is a wonderful place to come with family and friends to see the fireworks,” she said, as she watched them also illuminate the Potomac River.
Because the estate is privately owned, the crowd size was controlled by selling a limited number of tickets, explained Matt Briney, Mount Vernon’s communications vice president, so people could practice social distancing on the huge lawn, and “not be in close proximity to each other.”
Despite concerns about the impact of large crowds during the pandemic, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump are hosting the 2020 “Salute to America” in the nation’s capital on Independence Day, with music, military demonstrations and flyovers.
After the president delivers remarks, a White House statement said, the evening will culminate with “a spectacular fireworks display over the National Mall.”
Washington’s Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had already canceled the Independence Day parade, is urging residents to stay home, as the city remains under a health emergency with gatherings limited to no more than 50 people.
Krystal Niemczynski of Alexandria, Virginia, said she is not going to the fireworks display because she wants to do her part “to help stop the spread of the virus.”
Many people often stay home to avoid the crowds and watch the fireworks on television. New York and Washington’s events will be shown live, while other cities will replay their fireworks from last year.
With the cancellation of public displays, the sales of fireworks are booming, as families put on their own small light shows.
“People have been feeling cooped up at home and are buying fireworks so they can enjoy them with each other,” explained Edgar Alverado, who works at a fireworks stand in Fairfax Country, Virginia.
In the age of COVID-19, many Americans are also celebrating with small family picnics or a barbecue with a few friends and neighbors.
At Mount Vernon, Hooper said Independence Day is about “freedom and patriotism, and the people who fought to give us that freedom.”
For Niemczynski, an Air Force military veteran and mother of two young boys, the Fourth of July is a special day.
“I’m teaching my boys to respect their country and the American flag,” she said.