Diverse concert at Mall, parades and picnics mark Fourth of July
Monday, July 5, 2010
A rollicking party on the Mall celebrated America's 234th birthday Sunday with folklore and Frisbees, soccer games, Christian rock and a star-studded concert, punctuating the nation's diversity with verve in a multicultural mosaic.
Unlike in recent years, when Independence Day crowds dodged raindrops, blue skies gave way to a crystal-clear evening as people gathered at picnics and parades, munched on ethnic dishes on the Mall and lined up along the banks of the Potomac River to view the capital's pyrotechnic extravaganza.
For some, the day was the perfect culmination of Americana, past and present.
"This is our country's picnic, Main Street parade, jam session and sports day all rolled into one," said Chauncey Johnson, who, with his wife, Tammy, had driven to the District from suburban Philadelphia. As he waited in line to enter the festivities at the east end of the Mall, headlined by Gladys Knight and the Pips, he added: "Look at it. . . . It's every slice of American life right here."
Blocks away at the White House, President Obama celebrated the holiday -- which also marked his daughter Malia's 12th birthday -- with a South Lawn picnic of hamburgers, hot dogs and watermelon pops. Many of the more than 1,000 guests were members of the military.
On the Mall, festivities began in the late morning as crowds transformed the green expanse into a marketplace. Couples lay on blankets in the shade.
At every turn, the day bespoke the Fourth of July. There were the sights: red coolers, white sun hats and blue beach towels. And the sounds: the thump and bass of high school marching bands, the calls from Hare Krishna floats and the rhythms of mariachi bands.
There was no official estimate of the huge crowd. U.S. Park Police, who no longer estimate the size of Mall gatherings, had anticipated that a half-million people would attend the festivities, which included the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Park Police detailed hundreds of officers and rangers to control crowds and confiscate alcohol.
Although the mercury soared into the 90s, many said a subtle afternoon breeze helped keep the day from being a scorcher.
"Shoot, I remember, was it 2003? 2004? You could barely move it was so bad out here," said Janice Torrance of Capitol Heights as she sat on a towel with her sons, Nile and London.
Still, many found innovative ways to cool off. Teresa Cho and her three children soaked their feet in a small ice chest after walking the length of the Mall.
"Didn't expect to do this, but desperate times . . . " Cho said.