- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

The United States has long been a melting pot of cultures, customs and people, so why not start off the Independence Day holiday by watching this concept in action? Approximately 50 people, from all over the world, will become U.S. citizens early this morning, pledging their loyalty by reciting the oath of allegiance. It starts at 9:30 at the Freedom Forum, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Best yet, it's free. 703/284-3544.

First father
The holiday is also a good chance to remember the men who made the Fourth a celebration in the first place. At George Washington's Mount Vernon home, there will be a 9:30 a.m. reading of the Declaration of Independence, a 10:30 a.m. wreath-laying at Washington's tomb and tours of the historic property throughout the day. Stop by from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Mount Vernon, at the south end of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. $4.50-$9. 703/780-2000.

March in time
If the thought of fighting crowds on the Mall makes you wince, think about checking out the Palisades Fourth of July parade. This small neighborhood event attracts everyone from elected officials to local youngsters on bicycles and has music from the Washington Scottish Bagpipe band, among others. Check it out starting at 11 a.m. at the corner of Whitehaven Parkway and MacArthur Boulevard NW and moving to Palisades Park, at Sherier and Dana Places NW. It's free. 202/363-7441.

History hodgepodge
The National Archives may be undergoing renovation, but history buffs can still get their American history fix. Meet Thomas Jefferson and ask him about the Declaration of Independence (through a costumed interpreter), check out an early plate engraving of the famed document and learn more about historic preservation with employees from the Archives. It all takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Union Station, 50 Massachusetts Ave. NW. It's free. 202/523-4534.

Town toast
For the residents of Clifton, Va., the Fourth of July is a bit of a dual celebration. The tiny hamlet of 225 people, which still resembles a Norman Rockwell painting in some respects, is celebrating its own 100th birthday. It is home to Nancy Reagan's favorite restaurant, was the site of Fairfax County's first high school and can be seen in the opening scene of the movie "Broadcast News." Celebrate alongside the townsfolk, with a parade at 3 p.m. and a potluck picnic at 4 p.m. today in downtown Clifton. It's all free. 703/322-1811.

Monumental music
In the evening, be sure to sample some of the United States' best music with the Monumental Brass. The Baltimore ensemble plays a variety of Dixieland jazz, ragtime, show tunes and big band hits, in addition to a wide range of classical works. Hear centuries worth of music when they play at 6 p.m. today at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, F Street and New Hampshire Avenue NW. It's free. 202/467-4600.

Cultural stew
Of course, families that decide to head down to the Mall will have plenty to do, as well. For starters, there's the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which has one of its most elaborate themes in years, "The Silk Road." That famous passageway crossed through Europe and Asia and made possible great innovations in art, music, science, commerce and other areas. Nearly 400 artists, cooks, storytellers and others, from around the world, will be there to take you on a journey through the diverse of cultures. The lineup of music tonight is "Ballads and Beats of Today's Silk Road," featuring Indian Ocean (a mix of jazz, rock and Indian music) and Roksonaki, a Kazakh-folk-rock band. They play starting at 5:30 p.m. and the regular festival runs from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today on the National Mall. It's free. 202/357-2700.

Fireworks finale
Two of the area's oldest and best celebrations neatly coincide with the Folklife Festival during the day. Starting at noon, the free National Independence Day parade follows Constitution Avenue, between Seventh and 17th streets NW. Stick around that night for "A Capitol Fourth," which features performances by the National Symphony Orchestra, Aretha Franklin, Lee Ann Womack and teen singer Aaron Carter, followed by fireworks. It airs live on PBS, with host actor Barry Bostwick. The show begins at 8 p.m. tonight at the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill. It's all free. 202/619-7222.

Derek Simmonsen

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