A Fourth to remember: North Texas, U.S. take a bite of freedom with hot dogs, fireworks

Panther Island fireworks in Fort Worth on July 4, 2021. Photo by K.P. Wilska

It was an old-fashioned Fourth of July as Americans everywhere, including North Texas, got together Sunday to celebrate Independence Day and the nation’s increasing freedom from the suffocating restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In North Texas, attendees at various outdoor events got to experience relatively cool temperatures (77 degrees at 10 p.m.) as events took place around the area.

In Fort Worth, the traditional fireworks at Panther Island kept the party going while at Dickies Arena, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra performed American classics. The program ranged from several selections from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess to Copeland’s Hoe Down from Rodeo to Kevin Day’s Lightspeed as well as more traditional fare such as God Bless America, America the Beautiful and Stars and Stripes Forever. The performance was broadcast on WFAA, Channel 8.

Panther Island fireworks on July 4, 2021. Photos by K.P. Wilska

While the big hot dog eating contest was taking place in New York, Curly’s Frozen Custard in Fort Worth gave away 300 free Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs.

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“We were so disappointed that the coronavirus caused safety concerns last year, and we’re still not quite comfortable about placing contestants side by side and gathering a crowd,” said founder Brouke Harvey. “We feel that Curly’s and Nathan’s Famous are synonymous with the Fourth of July.”

As the video here indicates, plenty of people showed up to take a bite or two at Curly’s.

Customers at Curly’s Frozen Custard on July 4, 2021

Meanwhile, around the country:  

WASHINGTON — The White House party for the July Fourth holiday had the hallmarks of both happiness and commiseration.

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The crowds danced to a military band playing popular songs and whooped when President Joe Biden took the podium to speak.

The Washington Nationals’ four presidential mascots — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — ran a foot race with Teddy winning.

Yet there was an undeniable sense of loss for participants such as Twanda Taylor, a New Jersey kindergarten teacher. She brought her godson, Nasir Dickerson, 14, who lost his father to COVID-19 on April 21, 2020.

“This is what it’s all about — bringing America all back together,” Taylor said. “It’s an honor to be here.”

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NEW ORLEANS — Fireworks returned to New Orleans on Independence Day thanks to actor Will Smith.

Smith is picking up the roughly $100,000 tab for the pyrotechnics over the Mississippi River after learning New Orleans didn’t plan a 2021 show, city officials told news outlets.

New Orleans canceled last year’s fireworks because of COVID-19.

Smith is in New Orleans working on his latest film, Emancipation, which will tell the story of a slave, Peter, who escaped a Louisiana plantation and whose photo of scars on his back from being whipped exposed the brutality of slavery. He would also fight for the Union in the Civil War.

Smith moved production of the film from Georgia to Louisiana in early April after Georgia passed a new voting law that prompted a federal lawsuit saying the overhaul was intended to deny Black voters equal access to the ballot.

NEW YORK — Chowdown champ Joey “Jaws” Chestnut broke his own record as he gulped his way to a 14th win in the men’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Michelle Lesco took the women’s title.

Chestnut downed 76 franks and buns in 10 minutes. That’s one more than he gobbled in setting the men’s record last year, when the contest unfolded without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lesco downed 30¾ dogs in 10 minutes.

Last year’s women’s champ and record-holder Miki Sudo skipped this year because she’s expecting a baby in a few weeks.

New York City also saw Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks show return in full form with a display over the East River, as shells were shot from five barges in a televised, choreographed spectacle.

The show was broadcast live on NBC as part of a two-hour special featuring artists including the Black Pumas, Coldplay, OneRepublic and Reba McEntire. The performers’ appearances were pre-recorded around the country in front of live audiences.

Last year, because of pandemic restrictions, there were a series of shorter fireworks shows in the days leading up to the holiday, with the locations kept secret in advance to keep people from congregating. This year, the crowds were welcome to gather.

“It’s hugely significant because we’re all back together again. We were apart for so long,” said Mike Marrone, who took in the fireworks among a throng of onlookers along the Franklin D. Roosevelt parkway.

MIAMI — The Fourth of July holiday was marked with somber tones in South Florida, where a collapsed building has left at least 24 dead and more than 120 missing under rubble.

“July 4 is ordinarily a time to gather with our loved ones and to celebrate our freedom and our independence, and this year the holiday looks very different,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“But through this grief,” she said, “and all of the other obstacles that have been thrown our way, a clear picture emerges of what it means to be American.”

A candle-light vigil was planned for Sunday night in Miami Beach for the victims of the fallen Champlain Towers South condominiums complex in Surfside, Florida.

Neighboring Miami Beach typically hosts one of the region’s most spectacular fireworks displays, but officials canceled the show for the second year out of respect for the families. The show could not go on last year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

While many communities across South Florida canceled fireworks, one of the few locations in Miami-Dade County that was going forward with fireworks displays was former President Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doral. Tickets for the free event, 20 miles inland from Surfside, were sold out.

FWBP Staff contributed to this report.