Ward Hall, wearing a light gray three-piece suit, a giant diamond-studded Lions Club pin on his tie, a double-thick key chain around his ample middle and a black homburg, stood on the stage under the big tent on the Mall urging people to come to his show.

"Come in now, the big show is on, watch the man walk barefoot up and down the ladder of naked swords. Nothing to protect his feet but a little dirt."

It was the Smithsonian's spring celebration, and the public was invited free to watch the Harriot Family Circus, a carnival sideshow and several old-fashioned vaudeville acts.

Three days of fun that began under perfect skies on Friday continued through the rain Saturday and yesterday, with an estimated 100,000 people visiting the show.

Hall, who has been with carnivals for 36 years, prefers to call himself a talker instead of the traditional barker.

The lines he used for all those years in hundreds of tent shows were tired, but new to the audience.

"In that box is a 6-foot African boa constrictor," Hall talked, as a dwarf, Pete Terhune, removed the snake and wrapped it around his shoulders like a fur piece.

"Their teeth are brittle, so they won't bite, just constrict." Hall talked, "If it did bite, a tooth would break off and infect the victim. They don't brush their teeth.

"It's a wonderful household pet. You will never be bothered again by mice or your mother-in-law."

Farther down the platform a magician kept a crowd confused with his deft movements and constant spiel. "I'm going to say again I am not trying to fool you. They say to me money talks, well all it says to me is goodbye."

Connie Daugherty, a slender willowy brunette, stood against an upright board while John Trower threw long, sharp knives around her.

"It's better to be slender," she said when the act was over. "He nicked me yesterday right here on the thigh.

"But if I didn't trust him , I wouldn't let him throw; besides, I get to throw at him also."

Ward Hall seemed to be everywhere, as a good talker should, and said, "She wanted to be in show business in the worst way, and this is the worst way."

John Trower also doubled as a sword swallower and told the crowd, "My doctor said I needed more iron in my system."

He dazzled them ,easing down all size swords, a bayonet and, finally a neon-lit sword.

Outside the tent, people walked in springtime steps to lively marches being blasted out merrily from an air calliope.

The calliope was built in 1924 and mounted on a 1920 model-T Ford truck, all restored by Robert Bruce from Painted Post, N.Y.

Inside the Museum of History and Technology, Carson Connor, a Smithsonian employe, said, "Circus people don't want to be called carnival folk, but carnival folk don't mind being called circus folk."

On stage the vaudeville show was about to start as Bruce Steeg, sitting at a piano, struck up a lively "Sons of Fame and Sorrow."

Frank Dean, all of 72 years old walked quickly to center stage and dazzled the crowd with a series of whip cracking tricks; prompting happy youngsters to hold their ears.

Dean flicked the stems off imitation flowers and got assistance from Smithsonian employe Connie Lee, who bravely held out a straw as Dean, standing 10 feet back, whittled it away.

In the dressing room shared by several performers, Dean, a happy, heavy-set man wearing a red cowboy outfit, white boots and a white cowboy hat, recalled, "My wife used to be in my act.

"We were married on horseback in Japan in 1935; she was also a sharp-shooter and a trick rider."

The Deans also had a knife-throwing act before she died a year ago.

Describing the act, he said, "I used to throw around her -- you never say 'at her.' I threw four knives on each side and later we introduced cleavers, and I threw three clearers on each side.

"Aldolph and Martha Rossi are the best in the business," Dean said. "When he throws, the knife handle hits Martha's arm, flips and slides right into the board."

Had it been a good life, rodeos, circuses, carnivals?

"I made a good living," Dean said. "It kept me out of jail."