- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2001

The throngs of visitors to the Mall got what they had waited all day yesterday to see, but the spectacular fireworks at the annual Fourth of July celebration had to compete with booming thunder and drenching rain.
Though the elements proved too much for some, between 300,000 and 500,000 people came out to spend Independence Day in the heart of the nation's capital, said a U.S. Park Police worker.
Many people had left the Mall by the time the fireworks began. Those who remained through the downpour were given a display well worth the wait.
Said Abdelmagid, a 9-year-old from Herndon, waved a plastic American flag throughout the fireworks display. He wore a blue pancho for protection from the rain.
"It was the most exciting fireworks I ever saw," he said. "The people that left should have had a little more patience. It was worth the wait, I love the rain."
Said's grandmother, Laura Abdelmagid, 49, who just moved to Herndon from New York City, said: "We didn't think it was going to happen, but we stuck it out and it was fabulous. I come from Manhattan, which is some of the best fireworks in the world, so I can say these were truly superb."
Miss Abdelmagid wore American flag socks. It was the first time she had watched fireworks on the Mall.
John Mennitt, 52, from Rockville shared one umbrella among five of his John Mennitt, 52, from Rockville shared one umbrella among five of hisfamily members. He said they had waited on the Mall since 2 p.m. to watch the sparks overhead.
"If you're already wet, you might as well just stay," Mr. Mennitt said. "It was wonderful. The others missed a good time."

Todd and Melanie Lesswing, newlyweds from Buffalo, N.Y., huddled under a tree with about 70 other visitors.
It was their first trip here, but they were resourceful enough to grab a cardboard box off the street for shelter, and dry seating later.
"We've been standing in the rain for nearly all day. We're going to see some fireworks," Mrs. Lesswing said.

For some, it was a day with a message. Marcella Lafayette, of Portland, Ore., was in town for the Animal Rights 2001 Convention.
She and two other women from the convention went to the Mall to distribute fliers calling for animal liberation, but she said she had some concerns with the fireworks.
"It's a reminder of explosives and loud bangs, and I know, according to history, they signify bombs bursting in air," she said.
Ms. Lafayette said Independence Day could be celebrated in a more peaceful manner.
"I think we can come together as a community and teach more about what independence is all about."

Earlier in the day, people had gathered in sticky, humid weather for the National Independence Day Parade.
Ninety-four flags were featured, including one almost as wide as the street carried by members of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution.
Marching bands from places as far-flung as San Diego and a cloggers dance troupe from Texas entertained the crowd. Local talent got in on the act, too, with the national award-winning Marching Elites Drill Team of Hampton, Va., and the D.C. Public Schools All City Marching Band performing.
"I'm glad I took the day off for this," said Capitol Police Officer Michael Killebrew, who brought friends from San Diego to see the parade. He ordinarily might have been at the Capitol, where, at midmorning, visitors already were putting their blankets on the lawn to reserve places to watch the concert and fireworks display last night.
Mixed into the parade were reminders of what it was all about.
A horse-drawn carriage bearing a long, blond-haired man in Colonial attire and doffing a tri-cornered hat seemed most appropriate as it made its way on Constitution Avenue from the National Archives, past the Smithsonian museums and the Washington Monument.
Solemn applause came along the parade route as some members of the Military Order of Purple Heart and Combat Wounded Veterans passed. Many older male spectators took off their caps and held them over their hearts as the entourage passed.

One of the biggest hits on the Mall was the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which has been running since June 27. Diana Parker, director of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, said more visitors were expected than even last year when the festival attracted 1.2 million people.
The festival, she said, was a place where Americans could see their cultural heritage come alive.
For hungry revelers, food from all over the world was available to enjoy. The festival also had stalls selling African artifacts and clothing from Bermuda, among other items.
"This is it. I think this all is the symbolic center of our country. You are between the Washington Monument, the Capitol and the museums are on either side. To have the opportunity to be here on the Fourth of July is very exciting."

Many got their kicks at the New York City section of the Folklife Festival where Los Macondos, a six-member native Colombian band based in Long Island, gave a moving performance.
Juan Ortega, 39, the band's bass player and vocalist, who also serves in the U.S. National Guard, said he was happy that both Colombians and non-Colombians were dancing.
"It's an exchange of energies," he said. "Being here in D.C. on the Fourth of July, it can't get any better than that."
John and Luz Medina, a couple that emigrated from Colombia to Silver Spring two years ago, had to dance outside the music tent where Los Macondos played. The 30-by-60-foot dance floor inside the tent, with a capacity of 350, was too crowded.
"It's great to hear a piece of our country here," Mrs. Medina said in Spanish.
"This is a beautiful country — the leaders work for their people," Mr. Medina said. "Americans love their country. Anywhere else, that's not so."

Other curious onlookers stopped to watch graffiti artist Hector Nazario spray D.C. scenes on a specially constructed 45-foot-wide wall at the Folk Life Festival.
Mr. Nazario, 32, co-founded Tats Cru Inc., a company that does graffiti art for commercial music videos and movies, bringing up to $100,000 in pay.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm; people are basically learning about graffiti art for the first time," said Mr. Nazario, of South Bronx, a first-time visitor to the District.
"We're on the Mall. I mean, we're between the Washington Monument and the Capitol," he said.

Martha Zinger from Louisville, Ky., got a load of some interesting sights from her spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Mrs. Zinger and four of her friends were in town for a pastoral choir convention, but missed it yesterday to spend the Fourth on the Mall with thousands of other revelers. By afternoon, they were content to sit on the wall outside the Lincoln Memorial, feet dangling.
"When you are in D.C. on the Fourth of July, you have to come down here and see the fireworks. I doubt they will be better than the ones for the Kentucky Derby, though," she said.
The rain did not drive her away. "We got our spot, and now we are staying put," she said.
It was a good spot, she said, to just "people-watch." Then, eyeing a tattoo on an exposed rear end, she remarked: "You see some sights out here."

Emmett Greenleaf of Fairfax turned 66 yesterday.
In his Washington Redskins construction hat and cargo pants — mallet and tape measure hanging from the loops — he was part of the Timber Framers Guild demonstration on the Mall.
The guild shows the public a type of carpentry used 250 years ago, before the Colonists had declared their independence.
Mr. Greenleaf, a Vietnam veteran, said a lot of his friends' names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. To him, the Fourth of July is to embrace his countryfolk.
"This is the day we should come together to celebrate the nation's birthday. It rekindles our understanding and acceptance of Americana. I don't care what they look like — fat, thin, tall, short, white, black — they're all Americans. That commonness and patriotism is alive and well."
While he was building a timber frame house, he received a call on his cell phone from his daughter in Florida, wishing him a happy birthday.

The Maslana family of Pleasanton, Calif., waited in line at the National Archives to see the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — the two boys, 11-year-old Justin and 8-year-old Jacob, eating Sno-Cones.
Justin had recently appeared in a school play in which he played Colonial figure Samuel Adams. He recited the preamble to the Constitution, which he had memorized for school. Though he didn't miss a beat, he said he wasn't quite sure what it meant.
"You can ask him about the San Jose Sharks — he'll know about that," Mike Maslana, 40, said of the professional hockey team.
Politics plays a big role for the family back home, Mr. Maslana said. For Justin's birthday, they played their own version of the trivia game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" In order to get his birthday money, Justin had to name both political parties.
Except for grandmother Marty Maslana, it was the family's first trip to the District.
"This gives you an opportunity to see what [the Founding Fathers] risked. Would people do this now? I don't think they would."

Fireworks stands yesterday indicated that the Fourth of July was still an explosive celebration.
But stand operators went out of their way to explain that they were selling safe explosives, mainly for family and neighborhood gatherings in the evening.
"Sales are very good," said Ray Potts, 26, who has come up from Greenville, S.C., the last three years to help his father-in-law at the Garden Center in the 2100 block of New York Avenue NE.
"Everything's safe for kids," Mr. Potts said, referring to a packet of sparklers and snappers that pop when thrown onto the sidewalk.
The most popular item was TNT Fireworks: For $39.99, folks could get firepower that included rockets, sparklers, firecrackers, fountains, "moonshots" and more.
Arlo Wagner contributed to this report.

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