NEW YORK -- From backyard barbecues to the Macy's 4th of July fireworks show, families across the Tri-State Area are gearing up to celebrate Independence Day.
No celebration would be complete without the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, which organizers say dates back to 1916. As the competition returns to its rightful home for the first time in three years, 25,000 fans are expected at Surf and Stillwell.
"I really feed off the screaming and the yelling and the cheers. It's a great feeling," first ranked female eater Miki Sudo told CBS2.
Joey Chestnut, the undisputed 14-time holder of the Yellow Mustard Belt, is returning to defend his title, but this year, the champ is hurt.
"I think I feel better than I look. I look pretty rough with the leg, but I'm going to go out there, I'm going to go out hungry and I'm going to eat," he told CBS2. "It's something I love doing, and it's Fourth of July, and I'm going to push it."
With the sun high in the sky, excitement was also climbing along the Coney Island boardwalk.
"It's a great honor to be part of Fourth of July, the independence," said Rossie Fernandez, of Fort Greene.
"It's the holiday that makes people together, to come celebrate," Bensonhurst resident Andre Shechuk said.
Some, like Jersey City resident John Koors, came dressed for the occasion. CBS2's John Dias asked if he wears his American flag shirt every year.
"Frequently throughout the year. I tend to embarrass myself sometimes, but why not for America, right? Come on, red, white and blue," Koors replied.
Others were newcomers.
"My first time here," one person said. "It's nice, man. It's hot."
Similar to the country's Founding Fathers, many who visit have founded traditions.
"I grew up here. Our tradition was Easter Sunday and Fourth of July," said Miriam Roman, of Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Roman now lives in New Jersey, but comes back to Coney Island every year for the holiday. She being doing it for more than 40 years.
"Even around the pandemic, we used to come here and walk," she told Dias.
America's birthday was even being celebrated by tourists from foreign countries. There were no candles to blow out, but for one family from South Africa, there were Nathan's hot dogs to eat.
"It's the touristy thing to do, apparently. A lot of tourists," said Wilem Roos.
The kids seemed to all love the rides.
"The rollercoasters are kind of fast. It's fun, and then there's also the games and the arcade," Gavin Garner, of Austin, Texas, said.
That includes the 24 at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park.
"These days are what we look forward to all year round. We prepare all year for this day," said manager Deno Vourderis.
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Many people Dias spoke with said after the beach and boardwalk, they're heading to the East River for the Macy's Fourth of July fireworks display.
The fireworks are being loaded onto five barges positioned between East 32nd and East 42nd streets, with prime viewing locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens.
"This is our opportunity to be back on the streets of New York City, above in the skies of New York City, really collectively as one community to enjoy a bit of fireworks," said Executive Producer Will Cross. "You've got 25 minutes of action-packed fireworks ahead."
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The show designer said 20 different color combinations, including pastels, like fuchsia, magenta and lime, will light the sky to the soundtrack of jazz, salsa and patriotic tunes.
"We're going to have over 48,000 aerial shells and effects -- I think we're closer to about 60,000," designer Gary Souza said. "We're going to have a mushroom, a tall hat-shaped firework, we're also going to have a whistling jellyfish and the usual happy face."
The hot dog eating contest kicks off at 11 a.m., and the fireworks show starts around 9:25 p.m.
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