July 4? Arthur moves celebrations to 3rd or 5th

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photos with contestants for the upcoming Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot-Dog Eating Contest tomorrow Thursday, July 3, 2014, at City Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio poses for photos with contestants for the upcoming Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot-Dog Eating Contest tomorrow Thursday, July 3, 2014, at City Hall in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) — As Americans prepared to celebrate the nation’s 238th birthday, Hurricane Arthur forced several East Coast cities to switch the dates of their Fourth of July shows and officials in the drought-stricken West urged caution in setting off fireworks.

Boston officials moved the annual Boston Pops July 4 concert and fireworks from Friday to Thursday because of potential heavy rain. They said they were rescheduling the celebration to the best of two bad weather days.

Augusta, Maine, moved its fireworks display to Aug. 2 to coincide with an annual festival, while several New Hampshire cities moved their fireworks shows to either Saturday or Sunday. In New Jersey, Atlantic City and Ocean City moved their fireworks to Sunday.

In New York City the annual Macy’s fireworks show will be back on the East River after five years on the Hudson River. A spokesman said the show, the largest Fourth of July fireworks display in the nation, will go on no matter Friday’s weather.

Another New York tradition is the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, where champion Joey Chestnut, who ate 69 wieners and buns in 10 minutes last year, will defend his title on Friday.

In Oklahoma, the city of Pauls Valley has its own July 4 food competition: a watermelon seed-spitting contest. The record, set in 1989, is 66 feet, 11 inches.

Throughout parts of the drought-stricken West, fire officials are warning residents to take precautions when lighting fireworks. Hot and windy weather can make for dangerous conditions, and fireworks have been banned in large swaths of forested areas over concerns they could spark wildfires.

On Thursday, a trailer loaded with fireworks exploded near a high school in Comache, Texas, killing one person and injuring three others setting up for a Fourth of July show, authorities said. The town canceled the show, which is one of the largest in the region and typically draws 15,000 people.

In Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, officials moved a Thursday night pops orchestra concert indoors because of rain, but said the annual holiday concert featuring the Roots and fireworks display would go on Friday regardless of rain.

In Washington, D.C., composer John Williams was set to debut a new arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner” featuring choirs, trumpets, an orchestra and cannons on the National Mall on Friday.

This year marks the anthem’s 200th anniversary. It was in September 1814 when Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the flag over Baltimore’s Fort McHenry after a 25-hour British bombardment.

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