Fireworks Light Skies Over Hudson As New York Celebrates July 4

08/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York City's Fourth of July fireworks along the Hudson River lit the sky with a kaleidoscope of fiery colors shooting 1,000 feet into the air.

It was the nation's biggest fireworks display, with more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics exploding over a mile-and-a-half of the river. That's the length of 25 city blocks.

The extravaganza was moved back to Manhattan's West Side for the first time since the 9/11 terror attacks.

Tens of thousands of people lined both sides of river to watch.

Among the spectators were Jamalat Bayoumy and his wife, Mosad Mohamad -- food vendors who normally work opposite the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum by the river. They lost about $1,000 in business when police asked to shut down because of the swelling crowds.

"This is very nice," Bayoumy says, "but we're losing money in America." But his wife added: "America is free. We have green cards and we dream to become Americans."

Fourth of July in New York

The fireworks were only one part of the Independence Day festivities.

On Brooklyn's Coney Island, the elephants rested after eating 505 hot dog buns in six minutes Friday, winning a competition against three humans who downed 143 buns. It was a sideshow to an iconic Fourth of July event -- Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, won Saturday afternoon by Joey Chestnut, who chomped down a record 68 dogs.

The day began with the Statue of Liberty's crown opening to the public for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001. At about 9 a.m., the first huddled masses huffed and puffed their way up the 354 cramped steps to take in the spectacular view of Manhattan.

While the recession forced many communities to scale down, or even cancel, their fireworks, "we're a country of survivors and fighters, and we try to make things work," said Gary Souza, whose family-owned, California-based company is staging the New York display as well as hundreds of others across the country -- including the nation's capital.

Manhattan's six-lane West Side Highway was closed to traffic so pedestrians could view the fireworks. Across the river, Frank Sinatra's hometown of Hoboken, N.J., had one of the best views, facing the heart of the barge lineup in the Hudson against the Manhattan skyline for "one of the biggest and best shows we've ever put together," said Souza.