Whoever is orchestrating area Independence Day celebrations this year seems determined to give us the Fourth we never had. There's a decidedly old-timey flavor to the festivities. Old-fashioned family games abound - greased poles, sack races, pie and watermelon-eating contests. Parades, patriotic oratory, marching bands, flags, public dancing - it all may seem a bit bewildering to those whose prevailing Fourth of July memories are of setting off a few sparklers in the back yard.

This year, there are a couple of dozen area fireworks displays to choose from. Probably the biggest bang in town is the National Park Service's traditional one, which starts at dusk Tuesday on the Washington Monument grounds.

Before you settle in with your lawn chairs and coolers, though, there's plenty to keep you busy during the day. The Smithsonian will be winding up its four-day bash, an old-fashioned celebration at the Museum of History and Technology, from noon to 8:30, with barbershop singers, banjo players, a hurdy-gurdy man, fiddlers, brass bands and outdoor dancing. About 3:45, some of the performers will parade to the amphitheater area (on the east side of the building) for a reading of the Declaration of Independence and a music program. For a complete schedule of events, check museum information desks or call the Dial-a-Museum recording [737-8811] or the Visitors' Information Desk [381-6264].

The National Visitors Center in Union Station is having an all-day celebration Tuesday. Music, marionettes, dancing and magic, from 9 to 5. Call 523-5300 for a complete schedule of events.

The National Archives, not to be out-Fourthed, is having an hour-long ceremony at noon on its Constitution Avenue portico, with free ballons, band music, a mime show and actor Glenn Taylor, dressed on 18th-century costume, giving his traditional dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. From 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., a special military honor guard stands in attendance flanking the point of all this - the original Declaration of Independence. There's a changing-of-the-guard ceremony every half-hour. Details: 523-3099.

Also Tuesday afternoon, the German-American artist Peter Max is presenting a four-by-eight-foot painting of the Statue of Liberty to the United States in a program at 3 o'clock on the Ellipse. It's part of a General Services Administration ceremony marking the installation of 160 multicolored Peter Max welcome signs along our Canadian and Mexican borders. President Carter's son Jeff and his wife Annette will accept Max's painting, to the accompaniment of music from all three countries.

All these should be over in plenty of time for you to make it to the Monument grounds. Entertainment - gospel, brass and choral music and a performance by the 3rd U.S. Infantry from Fort Myer - starts at 6. A "gigantic, hour-long fireworks display" at 9:15 caps the evening. If it rains, everything moves to Wednesday.

For those without a view, the Kennedy Center roof terrace will open at 7 for watching the fireworks. There isn't any charge. There also aren't any seats (except a few for the handicapped). Tickets are required and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the National Park Service information desk in the Hall of Nations at the Center, beginning Monday at 10 a.m. Limit of four tickets a person.

Metro trains and buses will run until about midnight (free rides after 9 p.m.) to and from the Monument area, but when the fireworks are over, don't everyone flock to the Smithsonian stop. To avoid overcrowding there, Metro is asking fireworks-goers to choose from among other downtown stations - Federal Triangle, Farragut North, McPherson Square. Metrobuses will operate on Sunday schedules, with extra service added on many lines about 4 o'clock. Details: 637-2437.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list of other celebrations going on around town. Independence Day is one holiday that hasn't been tampered with yet, so unless otherwise specified, the following events all take place on Tuesday, the Fourth of July. Free admission to everything, unless noted.