July 4th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

Celebrating Independence Day in every way

Summer fare will sizzle on the grill and fireworks will light the night sky as America celebrates its 236th Independence Day on Wednesday.

And in Coney Island, someone will attempt to wolf down the most hot dogs, with buns, in 10 minutes for prize money and the Mustard Belt in the yearly Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

This year, hot dog-eating records smashed

CNN is featuring a wealth of star-spangled content today, so be sure to check out our coverage:

Our series on American Exceptionalism kicked off over the weekend with rich, provocative stories that speak to myriad interests:

The power of American Exceptionalism

2012 winner must unite America on ideals

Photos: Faces of citizenship

America may not be perfect, but we love it anyway

Nationality, identity and the Pledge of Allegiance

Travel: Where to find exceptional America

Dual nationals: When one passport isn't enough

iReport: Naturalized citizens explain why they're American by choice

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Gotta Watch: Bizarre fireworks celebrations
Fireworks explode over the Hudson River on July 4th, 2009.
July 4th, 2012
09:16 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Bizarre fireworks celebrations

Fireworks and the Fourth go together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you’re tired of the same old fireworks display year in and year out, we’re commemorating Independence Day by offering these unique fireworks festivities.

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Nearly naked fireworks

Bikini-clad women did a swift business selling fireworks in 2009. Learn what other “nearly naked” bikini stands the owner considered opening.

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Chicken launch

This Colorado town is offering a chicken “fireworks” show instead of the more traditional display. Watch chickens get launched out of a mailbox with a plunger.

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Fireworks and wetsuits

The Sydney festivities come with glowing wetsuits and surfboards. Watch these Aussies light up the night as they ride the waves in style.

CNN’s Matt Abshire contributed to this post.

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Filed under: Fourth of July • Gotta Watch • Holidays
July 3rd, 2012
04:31 PM ET

As temperatures sizzle, fireworks are even more risky

With wildly high temperatures, wicked weather and wildfires across the country, there are more warnings than usual posted about fireworks safety this year. In addition to harming themselves, people are also in danger of lighting up their entire neighborhoods.

"What people don’t realize is while they’re setting off fireworks and sparklers in this hot, dry heat or wind, that fires can move very quickly, putting their neighborhood directly in threat," said Mike Apicello, a spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"Look for open, wide spaces to ignite fireworks, and stay away from fire fuels such as grass, which in this type of heat, cure out really fast. And with the high winds, all it takes is an ignition, even in an urban environment. A bottle rocket on a shake roof would ignite a fire very rapidly.

"Our fire resources are going to be very busy across the nation this July Fourth, so please use caution," he said.

In the event of high winds, drifting embers can easily start a fire, so if it's too windy for you to safely ignite, it's best to set the sparklers aside for another day.

Apicello advises checking locally before you do anything, adding that fireworks are not allowed in national parks.

After all, fireworks aren't legal everywhere. CNN Radio reports in this podcast about where you can and can't ignite them.

Each year, more than 100 fireworks-related injuries are reported to hospitals, according to the National Council on Fireworks Safety.

Last year alone, 65% of those injuries happened, not surprisingly, during the 30 days around the Fourth of July, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported.

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