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.
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.
Annual holiday events
A number of annual events returned this July Fourth across the Island.
Honoring the Declaration of Independence
In Merrick, a crowd of nearly 100 people waving American flags and dressed in red, white and blue gathered to replicate the reading of the Declaration of Independence almost 237 years ago.
The majority of participants were middle-age adults and seniors, each reciting a line during the communal reading of the declaration, hosted by the Historical Society of the Merricks. The event at the Merrick gazebo, near the Long Island Rail Road station off Merrick Avenue, featured patriotic songs including "America the Beautiful."
"We're very proud of this country and I think we need to honor it with the reading of the Declaration of Independence," said Juliette Fernan, 40, of Merrick, who was accompanied for the fourth year by her son William Heaney, 8, her mother, Ann Fernan, 77, and her father, Eugene Ferman, 76, a Gulf War veteran.
The Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. The declaration announced that the 13 American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as independent states no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a union instead that would become a new nation -- the United States of America.
"The idea is to recreate that day in 1776 when we had to depend on our orality for our news," said historical society president Lawrence S. Garfinkel, adding his group has been conducting the readings since 1977. "After July 4, the people of the Merricks came together and the Declaration of Independence was read to them."
Shirley Marlowe, of Freeport, proudly displayed her 20-year-old silk replica of the original signers of the declaration, which survived the heavy flood damage superstorm Sandy caused to her home. Marlowe finally returned to her home last month, she said.
"My possessions were gone, but this has survived," Marlowe, who attended the reading for the first time, said about her replica. "It is a symbol that this country will survive. It is very special and it is in my heart."
For the 29th straight year, Shoreham was home to a 5K race, drawing a crowd several hundred.
The annual Shoreham-Wading River Fourth of July Scholarship 5K Race has become a tradition for triathlon competitor Sheila Isaacs, 75, of Shoreham, one of many seasoned runners who come to the event to prepare for other races and to give back to the community.
"I come every year since I live so close. This is just another run training session. . . . I'm doing the National World Triathlon Championship this September in London," Isaacs said.
The Scholarship Races took place outside the Miller Avenue Elementary School in Shoreham and included a children's 1-mile fun run, a 1-mile race for ages 13 and up, and a 5K for all ages.
The Shoreham-Wading River school district hosts the event and donates the proceeds -- $15 per person -- to a scholarship fund given to students who demonstrate civic leadership.
"Last year we had about 380 runners total and donated $11,000 to 14 students," said Paul Koretzki, coordinator for community programs. "The scholarships range anywhere from $500 to $1,500 for those who are involved with community service."
Winners of the fun run were Joseph Krause of Shoreham for the males and Danelle Rose of Miller Place for females. Daniel Purschke of Shoreham took first place overall for the 1-mile race, while Tara Farrell of East Quogue came in first for the females. First place spots for the 5K were Ryan Udvadia, 17, of Shoreham for males and Kathryn Sheehan, 22, of Wading River for the females.
Remembering battle at Old Bethpage
At the Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Thursday, a famous battle was waged again.
The men of Company H 119th New York Volunteers gathered in front of the Layton General store at the crossroads of the Old Bethpage Village Restoration to celebrate July Fourth.
The year, in theory, was 1863, and the battle of Gettysburg had just ended the day before. Though it was the deadliest battle of the Civil War and a turning point in the conflict, the end was still two years away.
So the men gathered for a few drills. They loaded their musket rifles with black gunpowder and lead musket rounds before taking a few practice shots. Later on they lined up before marching off to the South.
Nearby, moms and dads with toddlers and tweens in tow snapped photos with their digital cameras and iPhones.
While people all over Long Island spent the day at the beach or by the grill with hamburgers and hot dogs, visitors to Old Bethpage Village Restoration sought a more historic approach to the day.
"You can go to the beach on any weekend," said Andrew Bellise, who portrays an assistant surgeon in the re-enactment regiment. "There is only one Fourth of July to honor the old soldiers who made this country great."
Bellise, 55, who lives in Farmingdale, has been involved with the group for more than 30 years after answering an ad in Newsday that sought volunteer militia at the village, which recreates the 19th century.
Around the village a number of homes, brought in from around Long Island and preserved, showcase what it was like it live in the 1800s.
At the Bach Blacksmith Shop, Blacksmith Chris shuffled the coals while he billowed the air on his 3,000-degree fire. He was forging a shovel for a fire place and stuck the hot piece of iron in the fire as young boys looked on in amazement.
Outside an old-fashioned brass band with weathered instruments marched by.
Tim and Kelly Sassone, of East Islip brought their three children, ages 6, 4, and 2, because they felt history was important to acknowledge on this day.
"As a nation, we lack American history," said Tim Sassone. "As a father, I want my kids exposed to history."
As for the barbecue, they were to enjoy that later with family.
Racing hot dogs
Meanwhile, onlookers chose to celebrate their Fourth of July not at the beach or at a party, but with Hot Dog Pig Races at the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville.
Oinks and squeals mixed with cheers and applause as the final stretch of the first race neared, and "Brad Barbeque-Pitt," representing the green team, crossed the finish line.
"It's just for fun, for the kids," said Oleksandra Serbyn, 40, of Lindenhurst, who brought her twins, Natalia and Yaroslav, 4. "We'll probably go to the beach later."
The pig races, which will run until July 7 and then again August 19 to 25, feature five races -- three with pigs and two with dachshunds, around a 38-yard circular track as the blue, orange, green and pink teams race to the finish.
"We're trying something new," said Melinda Novak, vice president of the park, who brought in this show for the first time and others for the summer to attract people to the park. The show is run by New Jersey-based F & F productions, a company that has put on pig races and other shows for more than 30 years around the country.
The green team won the first two events, which included competitors Arnold Schwar-swine-egger, Kevin Bacon and Jerry Swinefeld.
The stakes were raised in the third and final event for the pigs, with hurdles added to the track. The green team couldn't keep its winning streak, and the blue team won, with Britney Spareribs beating Piggy Minaj, Ham Montana and Lady Hog Hog.
In between the second and third pig races, dachshunds provided the "hot dog" part of the Hot Dog Pig Races, as they donned hot dog costumes and had a go at the track. After the last pig race, the dachshunds raced again, sans costumes, this time over hurdles and through tunnels.
About 34 million travelers nationally were expected to hit the road this weekend, including 4.7 million in the metropolitan area, according to an AAA report. Those figures would indicate a slight dip in holiday traffic from last year, when July Fourth fell on a Wednesday.
With Jesse Golumb, Jennifer Barrios, Candice Norwood, Aisha Al-Muslim,
Fausto Giovanny Pinto
and Colleen Jaskot