LIers celebrate July Fourth from sea to Sound

Long Islanders enjoy their annual holiday traditions  as Nassau and Suffolk host parades and other events to mark Independence Day. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser and Jeff Basinger (July 4, 2013)

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From parades and traditional readings to music, re-enactments, foot races and, of course, the beach, Long Islanders took advantage of perfect weather to get out of doors on Independence Day.

Park officials projected that 100,000 people would swarm Jones Beach and said Sunken Meadow State Park was closed to new arrivals after 55,000 people descended on the North Shore beach.

In Port Jefferson, Heather Fumai sat in a chair on West Broadway, watching Fourth of July parade-goers walk the stretch that ends at the harbor.

Fumai was one of many in attendance Thursday at the annual July Fourth parade. Clad in red, white and blue, residents came not just to pay tribute to veterans, but also for a handful of reasons that, like Fumai's, were deeply personal.

Fumai said she and her sister were supporting Ride for Life, a charity that aims to find a cure for ALS -- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. "A lot of people don't know what ALS is," she said.

A dance team and a local elementary school band dazzled the crowd, sharing the spotlight with many veterans and firefighter crews.

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Along the route, Jennifer Matteo, 44, of Selden, paid tribute to her husband and son, both marching with the Selden Fire Department, as well as the other volunteers. She and her family also reflected on the 19 firefighters killed earlier this week in an Arizona wildfire.

"They give a lot to the community," said Matteo, adding she was there for "those who lost their lives on the front lines."

The parade marked a village milestone -- its 50th anniversary -- and was accompanied by the swearing-in of several elected officials. The mayor and two trustees recently won uncontested races.


No stranger to the parade was Jeanne Garant, Port Jefferson's mayor from 1999-2005, whose daughter, Margot Garant, was sworn in Thursday for a third term.

She has not missed a celebration since 1972, Garant said, as she wore a white sash inscribed with her former title and a red-sequined baseball cap.

"It's a great village," she said. "Very unique."

Forecasters had said the day would be hot and muggy on Long Island, but not rainy. Dan Hofmann, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said a ridge of high pressure kept any chance of precipitation away, and skies would likely be clear of clouds for Thursday evening's fireworks. The high temperature Thursday was 86 at Islip MacArthur Airport and in the middle and upper 80s for the rest of the Island, according to the weather service. By the time fireworks explode, temperatures will be in the middle 70s, going down to the lower 70s overnight. Temperatures are expected to careen above 90 on Friday.