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Inside the Beltway: Name that festival

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The American spirit of independence ensures that Fourth of July celebrations across the nation remain in the grass-roots realm, despite intense efforts by clever marketers and merchandisers to co-opt, standardize and "brand" such events. There's still a reassuring variety of designations for patriotic occasions taking place Wednesday:

"Honor America Day" (Anadoka, Okla.); "Let Freedom Sing" (Nashville); "Go 4th on the River" (New Orleans); "Four Legged Fourth" (Turnwater, Wash.; the grand marshal of the parade is Otis, the town's sole police dog); "The Heartbeat of Freedom" (Orlando, Fla.); "Lights on the Lake" (Lake Tahoe, Calif.), "Kaboom Town" (Addison, Texas), "Stars and Stripes Days" (Brainerd, Minn.), "Fourth of July Powwow" (Arlee, Montana); "Red, White & Blue on the Green" (Summerville, S.C.); "Welcome Home, Returning Heroes" (Wolfeboro, N.H.); "Indepen-Dance (Palms Hotel, Las Vegas).

INDEPENDENT FOURTHS

What's the agenda on Independence Day? President Obama remains in Washington on Wednesday to preside over a naturalization ceremony for active-duty service members in the East Room of the White House, accompanied by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Yes, there's big doings a bit later: a picnic and concert for military families on the South Lawn; it's daughter Malia's 14th birthday, and of course, the nation's biggest fireworks display will be overhead at dusk. Watch the Fourth from an Obama-eye view here: www.whitehouse.gov/live. Mr. Obama, incidentally; leaves town Thursday for a two-day bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Republican counterpart Mitt Romney, meanwhile, will spend an intensely family entric day at his 13-acre compound on truly overwhelming Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., where the burgeoning Romney clan has vacationed since 1997. But duty calls. Mr. Romney will march in the local town parade at nearby Wolfeboro, accompanied by Sen. Kelly Ayottte.

Ardent supporters from Team Romney will also march in three neighboring town parades, with the U.S. military much on their minds:

"With bravery, sacrifice, and courage, members of our armed services are protecting freedom at home and abroad, and we thank them for their service to our nation," Tommy Schultz, a spokesman for the Romney Victory Fund, tells Inside the Beltway.

"We are reminded that elections are important and have consequences for our freedom and well-being. The last three years have been an important lesson: We need strong leadership in Washington to turn our economy around," he adds. "As president, Mitt Romney will preserve our freedoms from an intrusive government that has moved away from the intentions of our Founders, and will put our nation back onto the path of prosperity."

MULLING THE MARTINI

This libation will surely offend purists, but hey, it's a holiday. Here's a recipe for the "Patriotic Red, White and Blue Martini," courtesy of Hpnotiq, a chichi blue vodka hybrid. The ingredients: 2 oz. Hpnotiq, 1 oz. citrus-flavored vodka, 1 splash lemon-lime soda, a dash of grenadine. The instructions: Shake first three ingredients with ice, strain into a martini glass and slowly add a touch of grenadine, which will sink in the glass to produce a red layer. Garnish with a curl of fresh coconut, or chopped coconut.

RAISING THE PLATFORM

He's long been on the short list as a vice-presidential candidate. Now we know for sure that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell will indeed be serving in an official capacity at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., at summer's end. Mr. McDonnell has been named chairman of the convention's platform committee, says Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee will serve as co-chairmen.

In political circles, this is the proverbial big, lofty deal.

"The principles of our party and our vision for the country are contained in the platform. It is a document of immense importance and a testament to our dedication to individual liberty, economic freedom, and limited government," attests Mr. Priebus.

"I look forward to hearing from voters across the country as we seek to give voice to the concerns, priorities, and values of the American people. This process is about more than writing; it is about listening. Voters deserve a party who listens to them," responds Mr. McDonnell.

SHIVER ME TIMBERS

"No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found. Why, then, do they occupy the collective unconscious of nearly all seafaring peoples? That's a question best left to historians, philosophers and anthropologists."

(An official statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency on Tuesday, responding to public questions regarding Animal Planet's docu-drama, "Mermaids: The Body Found").

POLL DU JOUR

• 160 million Americans will celebrate July 4th with a cookout or picnic.

• 115 million will attend a local fireworks display or community celebration.

• 48 million will purchase patriotic merchandise; 35 million will attend a parade.

• $302.7 million: Dollar value of American flags, banners and similar emblems manufactured annually in the U.S.

• $223.6 million: Amount spent annually in the U.S. on fireworks imported from China.

• $32.40: Average amount spent on July 4th cookout food items to feed 10 people.

• 35: Number of American towns or cities containing the word "eagle"; 11 contain the word "independence"; 9 contain the word "freedom."

• $1.7 billion: amount Americans spend on hot dogs annually.

• Los Angeles, San Antonio, New York, Baltimore/Washington and Chicago are the nation's top hot dog-consuming cities.

(Sources: Data released for July 4, 2012, by the U.S. Census Department., the National Retail Federation, the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Indiana Farm Bureau)

Happy Fourth of July, and thanks for reading Inside the Beltway.

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