The Smithsonian Institution calls its Fourth of July celebration this year, "old-fashioned." There is folk and gospel music, dancing, puppets for the kids, Uncle Sam and good clean fun.

On Saturday, there was not a lot of visible patriotism that accompanied last year's Bicentennial, and only a few miniature flags waved in the crowds.

People milled around quietly looking at the few exhibits or waiting in line for hotdogs and cokese. They looked vaguely bored. It was hot.

The activities began Saturday and run through 3:30 tonight on the grounds of the Museum of History and Technology.

An old man sat behind the amphitheater's stage, listening to gospel music, tapping his foot. "I guess after last year, well, there's nothing much more one could do to thank God for America." He wiped his faced in the heat. "It's quiet now."

A small crowd clapped along with the music, but most stayed only a short time. They moved on to the pottery exhibit or to hear the barbershop quartets.

"It's the best ever this year, the best ever," said John W. Rusk, who has played Uncle Sam in parades and festivals for the past 30 years. "Patriotism. I see it in the children's faces and the young adults too. It wasn't there five years ago."

People lined up around him to get a picture made with Uncle Sam. He's a perfectionist, whose shoes must be polished just right and costume designed authentically. He takes his job very seriously.

"I've done over 5,000 parades in the last 30 years, been to hospitals, schools, made speeches. Uncle Sam is very popular now," he said. People joked with him calling him Uncle for short and one man teased: "You own me. Uncle,"

It was all very homey.

The Supercycles, a club of youngsters who perform dazzling tricks on unicycles walked through their routine. One girl barked commands. "More room! More room! Keep in step!"

The youngest girl, 10-year-old Lois Grimm, wrinkled her nose up at the commands. She was giving everyone plenty of room. SHE knew what she was doing.

"Today I get to ride my pony for the first time and I'm not even nervous," she said. She brought her purple-spangled unicycle over. A plastic hobbyhorse replaced the regular seat. It was a new toy.

She patted his head and called him "My horsey." And as show time drew near, she adjusted a perky hat on her perky blond ringlets. Her mother touched up her hot-pink lipstick and powdered her nose.

She rode out in front of the audience like an old pro, icy-blue eyeshadow melting down her cheeks.

Mark Champagne spent the weekend on his knees.He's a sidewalk artist and the Smithsonian brought him in for the holiday to create patriotic sidewalk designs with chalk. He drew Benjamin Fraklin, the Spirit of 76, the Signing of the Declaration and Thurgood Marshall.

His knees, padded with foam rubber tied around his legs, turned blue with chalk dust.

"It's really temporary, yy know, this kind of art. I mean I sit here for three days and draw and then have to spend three days rubbing it off the sidewalk," he laughed.

His art is a lot like the Fourth of July celebration. "It's sad, I guess," said one bystander. "But in three days it will be all over, forgotten."