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From tall ships to oil gushers, U.S. gears up for Fourth of July festivities

Printer-friendly versionWASHINGTON _ Imagine 150 tall ships sailing through New York Harbor, so close together a person could walk from Manhattan to New Jersey without touching the water.

This celebration, New York City's Parade of Sail, exemplifies the most regal of Fourth of July festivities.

President Clinton will view the fifth Parade of Sail aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, along with other Americans watching from 70,000 spectator craft in the harbor, said Gregory Perrin, vice president of OpSail, Inc.

Three classes of ships form a triangle, Perrin said. Class A ships, more than 160 feet long, are placed down the center, Perrin said. Smaller Class B and C ships are placed behind the larger ships and to the right and left, he said.

"We're calling it the greatest event in maritime history," he said. "You can't imagine what New York Harbor would look like."

NBC is the official broadcast partner of the event, and will televise both the Parade of Sail and a fireworks display presented by Macy's later that night.

Macy's plans to launch 60,000 rounds of fireworks in 30 minutes from five different barge locations throughout the harbor, Perrin said. It is the largest display to date for OpSail.

"They had to combine the largest fireworks companies on the west coast with the east coast," he said. "It's a pretty awesome day."

Elsewhere in the country, Texans as well as Floridians plan to spend the holiday at their own picnics, music festivals and fireworks displays.

In Beaumont, Texas, people will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Texas' first gusher, Spindletop, in addition to the Fourth of July, with a gathering on the bank of the Neches River, said Stephen Boyd, the executive director of The Symphony of Southeast Texas.

The orchestra will perform an original composition created to mark the 100th anniversary of Spindletop from on board a river vessel, and people will spend most of the day outside saving a spot for the night's fireworks, Boyd said.

Vendors will offer barbecue, hot dogs, snow cones and ice cream, but many families will opt to bring their own treats, Boyd said.

"It's a good, old-fashioned Fourth of July, with a Texas twist because of Spindletop," he said.

Another celebration, Fort Lauderdale's Fourth Along the Coast, draws people from around the country with its 45-minute fireworks display over the ocean, said Mickie Brodie, a member of the City Festival's Staff of the Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department.

For exercise buffs, two of south Florida's hottest spin masters will be on Fort Lauderdale's beach to offer a total body conditioning and strength-training workout starting at 8 a.m.

And some of this year's entertainment will cater to the younger crowd, with people doing impersonations of the Backstreet Boys and scenes from the movie "Grease," she said.

Although Brodie's festivities might not have the majestic pageantry of New York's OpSail or the down-home feel of Beaumont's riverside festival, Brodie describes her town's festivities as "awesome," which is what the Fourth of July is all about.

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