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Fourth Of July

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President Joe Biden is set to mark his second Fourth of July since taking office, and he's finding a far different political atmosphere today than a year ago. At this time last year, the United States had been making steady progress against the pandemic, and Biden said the country was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” But in the past year, two variants proved the coronavirus remained a threat, and Biden's presidency has become bogged down in other challenges, some of them outside of his control. His approval rating has fallen 20 percentage points between his first and second Independence Days, according to polls from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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Tropical Storm Colin has brought rain and winds to parts of North and South Carolina, though the storm has weakened and conditions are expected to improve by Monday's July Fourth celebrations. Separately, the center of Tropical Storm Bonnie rolled into the Pacific on Saturday after a rapid march across Central America, where it caused flooding, downed trees and forced thousands of people to evacuate in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Forecasters say Bonnie is likely to become a hurricane by Monday off the southern coast of Mexico, but it is unlikely to make a direct hit on land.

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The Fourth of July holiday weekend is jamming U.S. airports with the biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020. Newly released numbers show 2.49 million passengers went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million reached earlier in the week. The increase is the latest sign that leisure travelers aren’t being deterred from flying by rising fares, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or worries about recurring flight delays and cancellations. In an even more telling indication, the average passenger volume at U.S. airports for the past week is nearing the same level as in 2019.

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Democrats and their aligned groups raised more than $80 million in the week after the Supreme Court stripped away a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion. The flood of cash offers one of the first tangible signs that the ruling may energize voters. But party officials say donors have given much of that money to national campaigns and causes instead of races for state office, where abortion policy will be shaped as a result of the court’s decision. That’s where Republicans wield disproportionate power. The fundraising disparity is exasperating the party's base.

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The fireworks are still a few days away, but travel for the July Fourth weekend is off to a booming start. The Transportation Security Administration said Friday that it screened more people on Thursday than it did on the same day in 2019, before the pandemic. Travelers so far seem to be experiencing fewer delays and canceled flights than they did earlier this week. But it's still early. Leisure travel has bounced back this year, offsetting weakness in business travel and international flying. Still, the total number of people flying has not quite recovered fully to pre-pandemic levels.

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has applied for a permit to hold a fireworks show at Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day 2023. The National Park Service has denied her permit applications for the past two years, citing environmental concerns and objections from Native American tribes. In 2020, a fireworks display, featuring a fiery speech from former President Donald Trump, was held at the monument after a nearly decadelong hiatus. A federal judge last year rebuffed the Republican governor’s lawsuit that sought to force the Park Service to allow her to shoot fireworks over the granite monument. Noem has appealed that decision.

State lawmakers are giving their final approval to new restrictions on fireworks but the rules won't be in place as July Fourth weekend fireworks light up Pennsylvania skies. The state House voted 163 to 37 on Friday to send the legislation to the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. The governor's press secretary says he plans to review it. The law would take effect in two months. Before a 2017 law change, fireworks in Pennsylvania were largely limited to sparklers and similar novelties. The changes permitted the sale of the full array of fireworks that meet federal consumer standards but also brought complaints about misuse.

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Atlantic City’s largest casino employer says a new contract it reached with the main employee union provides for “historic” raises. Caesars Entertainment owns a third of Atlantic City’s nine casinos: Caesars, Harrah’s and Tropicana. It reached an agreement late Thursday night with Local 54 of the Unite Here union on a tentative deal to avoid a strike that had been threatened for the July Fourth weekend, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for the casinos. And MGM Resorts International, which owns the Borgata, says the contract was a good one for all involved.

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The 2022 Essence Festival of Culture has clarified its admission policy, saying its coronavirus safety measures remain in place after an announcement via social media saying a negative COVID test result would be allowed for admission to its ticketed concerts and other events was sent in error. Essence said Friday that proof of a COVID vaccination remained mandatory for admission. Organizers say negative test results will not be accepted for entry. There are currently no coronavirus restrictions in place in the city of New Orleans.

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Yellowstone National Park is reopening its flood-damaged north loop at noon on Saturday, in time for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. The announcement means most of the park will be open again after July 13 flooding closed the park and forced 10,000 visitors to leave. Park officials say the roads from Norris Junction to Mammoth Hot Springs, to Tower-Roosevelt, to Canyon Junction and back to Norris Junction will be open. The loop is reopening nearly three weeks after massive flooding forced thousands to flee the park as water, rocks and mud washed out bridges and roads. Superintendent Cam Sholly says the alternating license plate entry system will be suspended. Parts of the park remain closed.

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If you're flying this holiday weekend, be prepared for crowded airports, full planes, and higher-than-normal chances that your flight will be delayed or even canceled. Airlines have stumbled badly over the last two holiday weekends, and the number of Americans flying over the July Fourth weekend is expected to set records for the pandemic era. Problems have been popping up already, with high numbers of cancellations this week, some of them caused by thunderstorms that snarled air traffic. Tracking service FlightAware says American Airlines canceled 8% of its flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, and United Airlines scrubbed 4% of its schedule on those same days.

The annual Fourth of July parade in Galloway starts 9 a.m. Monday, July 4. Come out and join your fellow Americans by celebrating our independ…

Starting at 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 1, is the fireworks spectacular at the North Beach area of Atlantic City. Attendees can choose from multipl…

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Black culture, in all its glory, will be on display over the 4th of July holiday weekend in New Orleans as thousands converge for the in-person return of the Essence Festival of Culture. The multiday event begins with a Thursday performance by comedian Kevin Hart, followed by ticketed nightly concerts at the Superdome on Friday through Sunday. Festival first-timers, rapper Nicki Minaj and country singer Mickey Guyton, perform Friday. Saturday's headliner is Janet Jackson and New Edition closes the event on Sunday. Free experiences covering tech, health and wellness, beauty and fashion are being offered inside the city's convention center.

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The skies over a scattering of Western U.S. cities will stay dark for the third consecutive Fourth of July as some big fireworks displays are canceled again, this time for pandemic-related supply chain or staffing problems, or fire concerns amid dry weather. The city of Phoenix cited supply chain issues in canceling its three major Independence Day fireworks shows this year. The northern Arizona city of Flagstaff is replacing fireworks with a laser light show. Some cities in California and Colorado are also nixing the once traditional fireworks shows for their July 4 celebrations.

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