Americans Kick Off Independence Day Festivities

The United States celebrates its independence Sunday with everything from fireworks to franks.

Boston, New York and Washington are among many cities putting up traditional fireworks displays, warming up crowds with entertainment events during the day.

And what Big Apple Fourth of July would be complete without Coney Island's embrace of two of America's biggest loves: hot dogs and competition.

In a dogged victory, Joey “Jaws” Chestnut took down 54 franks in 10 minutes to take his fourth consecutive title - and the coveted mustard yellow belt -- at the 95th annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on New York’s Coney Island Sunday.

Budget woes have put a damper on official government activities in some cities and towns.

But from big cities to small towns everywhere, families and friends gather for cookouts parades and other outdoor activities.

Meantime, the financial crisis has affected everything including the Fourth of July as some towns won't be lighting the night sky with traditional fireworks displays.

A number of cities and towns have been forced to pull the plug because of tight budgets and even Dallas almost lost its fireworks when organizers couldn't find enough corporate sponsors. A last-minute donation saved the show, although it'll be held on July 5.

Cedar Grove, N.J., Mayor Robert O'Toole and his son, State Sen. Kevin O'Toole, are splitting the $7,000 cost themselves.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company ran an online contest and then awarded $10,000 grants to 10 cities to help them continue their July Fourth celebrations.

The fireworks industry itself seems to be nearly recession proof. Industry sales last year were just under a billion dollars.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.