The nation's largest fireworks display exploded in a spectrum of color over the East River, temporarily stealing the spotlight from New York's world-famous skyline and helping to create a brilliant end to a day of July Fourth celebrations nationwide.
More than 3 million people had been expected to attend the New York display, though no crowd estimates were immediately given. It had been moved south along the river this year so onlookers could get a better view of the skyline.
Spectators thronged the riverfront in a light rain, some holding red, white and blue umbrellas.
Edwin Aleman staked out his viewing spot in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn hours before the show.
"These are million-dollar views," he told WNYW-TV. "This is what New York City is all about: the views, the skyline."
More than 35,000 shells sparkled, arched, spiked and fanned over the river during the half-hour show, launched from barges in two areas. It was televised on NBC to songs including "Give My Regards to Broadway," the "Tennessee Waltz" and, of course, "Yankee Doodle."
Organizers said this year's pyrotechnics included new nautical fireworks that floated on the water. Other new shells went through multiple transformations after they launched, providing four different effects.
It was such a large and potentially dangerous load of fireworks that the shipment got its own Fire Department escort from the moment it crossed the state line from New Jersey, officials said.
Near Cincinnati, a daredevil walked 2,000 feet across a cable suspended high off the ground in an amusement park. Rick Wallenda is the grandson of Karl Wallenda, patriarch of the "Flying Wallendas" high-wire act, who fell to his death trying to walk a cable in Puerto Rico in 1974.
Rick Wallenda, 53, completed the feat using a balancing pole and without a safety net or harness.
"I think my granddad would be proud," Wallenda said moments after the walk.
On the 232nd anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Boy Scouts in Hartford, Conn., rang a replica of the Liberty Bell, while organizers of the annual New York fireworks display promised the rockets' red glare would be better than ever.
Near Kissimmee, Fla., a wounded bald eagle, the national bird, was flying free after spending more than two months rehabilitating from a fight with another eagle. It was freed Thursday in Lake Tohopekaliga, the heart of Florida's eagle country.
In Boston, the 211-year-old USS Constitution, the Navy's oldest commissioned warship, was the backdrop Friday morning as two dozen people were sworn in as U.S. citizens.
Vice President Dick Cheney greeted the new Americans and later, in a second ceremony, administered the re-enlistment oath to a group of servicemen.
President Bush saluted new citizens at a naturalization ceremony in Charlottesville, Va., but was interrupted on several occasions by protesters calling for his impeachment.
In Fairmont, W.Va., gymnastics legend Mary Lou Retton was honored by her hometown with a parade and concert. She rode down streets in the cherry picker bucket of a fire truck, just as she did in 1984, when she was 16 and a new hometown hero.
A nearby wildfire prompted the cancellation of a fireworks display in Santa Barbara County, Calif. Communities across the parched state called off similar events because of fears that they could start fires.
Rain doused revelers on the National Mall in Washington ahead of Friday's celebrations. The musical bill included Huey Lewis and the News and Jerry Lee Lewis.
And it wouldn't be July Fourth without the annual hot-dog eating competition at Coney Island in New York. This year was another heartbreaker for longtime champion Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan.
He was trying to reclaim his title after a disappointing three-dog loss last year to Californian Joey Chestnut shattered his six-year winning streak. But it was not to be: Chestnut made it two wins in a row, beating Kobayashi in a tiebreaker.