On Thursday, June 30, tens of thousands of Bronxites and revelers from all over the region joined Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and State Senator Jeff Klein as they co-hosted the borough’s official launch to the year’s Independence Day Celebrations, the annual “New York Salutes America” boardwalk festival and fireworks extravaganza at Orchard Beach.

“This event is always a great way to kickoff New York City’s Independence Day festivities, and I was proud to join State Senator Klein and tens of thousands of our fellow Bronxites as we enjoyed an amazing fireworks show and a wonderful evening at the beach for the annual ‘New York Salutes America’ Fireworks Extravaganza,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“Every year I look forward to celebrating with food, fireworks and fun at our ‘New York Salutes America’ extravaganza. I was proud to join Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. to host this cherished tradition for our Bronxites this year. I was honored to mark our nation’s independence along with tens of thousands of Bronx families, as we let freedom ring this Fourth of July,” said State Senator Jeff Klein.

Two Bronxites, Antonio Matos and Helen Bengcion, also emerged victorious as the winners of the second annual “Bronx Empanada Eating Contest,” finishing eight beef empanadas provided by Havana Cafe on East Tremont Avenue faster than 18 other competitors. Each winner was awarded a “Bronx Gift Bag” featuring over $500 in prizes from vendors including Applebee’s, The Bronx Beer Hall, the Bronx County Historical Society, The Bronx Hot Sauce, BronxNet, the Bronx Times Reporter, The Bronx Tourism Council, The Bronx Zoo, FreshDirect, Friends of Pelham Bay Park, the New York Botanical Garden, the Office of the Bronx Borough President, Outback Steakhouse, Party Pose NY, Port Morris Distillery, Ridgewood Savings Bank, Wave Hill and more.