NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – From coast to coast, Americans came together Wednesday to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

The Declaration of Independence was formally adopted 242 years ago. Representatives broke away from British rule for a new beginning.

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To mark that moment, big cities and small towns celebrate with parades, barbecues and, of course, fireworks.

Manhattan’s spectacular light show dazzled the sky above the East River. It’s dubbed the largest Fourth of July show in the country, and nearly three million people were expected to attend.

“It’s the time to spend time together, and we just do this every year,” Ashley Gomez told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.

“This is the birth of our nation, and I believe that everybody should love the Fourth of July, because it celebrates our independence,” Melinda Robin Caudill said.

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The spectators were met with intense heat and humidity, plus high security. The NYPD had 6,000 officers, some in uniform and some in plainclothes, keeping a watchful eye, with multiple layers of security for each and every person who passes through.

“One would walk through, they’ll get screened by patrol service bureau folks, they’ll walk past officers that have personal radiation detection equipment on their gun belts, they’ll pass an explosive detection dog, and then they’ll see a long gun team,” said NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters.

“We do have some requests regarding restricted items: No towels, no umbrellas, no large coolers and no lounge chairs,” NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said.

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As for the pyrotechnic logistics, Macy’s promised a jaw-dropped demonstration of color and light to frame the one-of-a-kind New York City skyline in the shapes of pinwheels, swirling water fountains and pulsing hearts.

“This is actually going to be the largest show that we’ve seen since the millennium,” said Susan Tercero, of Macy’s. “We have over 75,000 shells, seven barges over a mile long, 3,000 effects a minute. So it’s going to be pretty awesome.”

Spectators Layton spoke with said the show did not disappoint.

“I usually come every year, sometimes in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, sometimes in Long Island City, and I definitely enjoyed it. It was spectacular,” one woman said.

“We came from Italy. It was incredible,” said another.

“This year (was) a little different from the other years. We like it more,” a man said.

“I’m really happy because the fireworks and all the NYPD and the FDNY, they work so hard to get these people happy,” said another.

“It’s a happy day,” a woman said.

“God Bless America,” another added.

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All in the name of America the beautiful on its birthday.