The Statue of Liberty finally reopened on the Fourth of July months after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island in New York Harbor as Americans across the country marked the holiday with fireworks and barbecues.
A large crowd gathered for the holiday and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Liberty Island with federal officials and New York's mayor. Lines stretched blocks long for the boat, which left from Battery Park in Manhattan starting at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Rodney and Judy Long, of Charlotte, N.C., were the first people in line for the boat called Lady Liberty. They couldn't get tickets to climb up to the top of the statue, but they were just glad to be there for the big reopening, they said.
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"It's perfect timing for it to reopen. It's really a symbol for what the country is all about," Rodney Long said.
Some repairs to brick walkways and docks are still underway, but much of work has been completed since Sandy swamped most of the 12 acres of the national landmark.
The statue was spared in the fall storm, but Lady Liberty's island took a serious beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers. Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.
Visitors to Lady Liberty went through security on lower Manhattan after city officials criticized an earlier plan to screen them at neighboring Ellis Island, which endured far worse damage to its infrastructure and won't be open to the public anytime soon. The damage to both islands was $59 million.
New Yorkers will also be treated to the annual fireworks display over the Hudson River with performances by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, and the Nathan's Original hot dog eating contest on Brooklyn's Coney Island. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is seeking his seventh straight title -- a world record. Last year he downed 68 hotdogs and buns in 10 minutes. But the Cyclone roller coaster and other attractions at the famed amusement park were closed going into the holiday after a 275-foot-tall observation tower swayed in the wind.
Personal fireworks remained banned in New York and were banned in New Mexico on state lands due to wildfires.
In Arizona, a carnival, parade, fireworks display and dance that draw thousands here each year will go on in Prescott, but with sober tributes for 19 firefighters who died earlier this week battling a blaze near Yarnell.
The city of Boston prepared to host the first large gathering since the marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds, and Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans planned large holiday concerts.
In Washington, thousands of Americans were to gather on the National Mall to watch a 17-minute fireworks display and listen to performances by Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and John Williams conducting music from the movie Lincoln. New Orleans was hosting the Essence Music Festival stringing stages along the French Quarter. And Philadelphia was hosting Wawa Welcome America’s 4th of July Jam that is billed as the “largest free concert in America,” with John Mayer, Neo and Hunter Hayes filling in last-minute for a sick Demi Lovato.
Not everyone was welcoming the masses -- Hermosa Beach, Calif., was ramping up police patrols and making room in jails for revelers who in recent years have made the city an annual destination for celebrating independence with drunkenness and raucous behavior.