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WASHINGTON (AP) —  Americans from across the country were gathering under heavy security Monday at the National Mall for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, part of a holiday celebration that also included a parade and other events across the city.

The 17-minute fireworks display, marking the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was to start at 9:17 p.m.

Other celebratory events were scheduled for earlier in the day, including a recitation of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives and a parade down Constitution Avenue. The parade featured the usual marching bands, military-related floats, and enormous inflatable marionettes of Fred Flintstone, Curious George, Uncle Sam and other characters.

Among the thousands of spectators lining the streets was Tom Zani, a legal aid attorney from Steubenville, Ohio, who was with his wife visiting his niece and planned to attend the fireworks Monday night.

“We wanted to see a grand scale Fourth of July celebration,” he said. “There can’t be a better place in America to do that than the nation’s capital.”

Roger Anderson, a 64-year-old retired real estate broker from San Jose, Calif., was wrapping up an East Coast trip to Boston, New York and Washington, where he planned to take in the holiday for a firsthand look at all the “pomp and circumstance.”

“It’s sort of the bucket list thing. All the things you want to see or do” before you die, he said. “You don’t appreciate Washington until you come here.”

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray used the holiday to repeat his call for autonomy from Congressional control over district affairs and for the district to have a voting member of Congress. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton represents the district in Congress but cannot vote on the House floor. Gray was among dozens of demonstrators arrested in April outside the U.S. Capitol for protesting a budget deal that included restrictions on how the city could spend funds.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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