Reston celebrated its 11th anniversary last weekend with a party. It was a spring festival that might have been designed by Norman Rockwell - a jumble of races and nationalities and ages, the citizenship of a planned community on hand to celebrate its own existence.

Three to five thousand Reston residents - boneted babies, barefoot teenagers, weekend tennis players, retirement-age couples and others - packed the town square, Lake Anne Center, Saturday.

At one end of the plaza Jaycees dispensed beer. In another corner a teenager with wisps of pink cotton candy in her hair handed out cones of spun sugar. In another part of th plaza Jimmy Siyad, sitting in front of a band in BNavarian costumes, played a Mideastern instrument called the aud.

The people in the crowd, many of them relatively recent residents of Reston, were feeling good about their community, an area where more than 25,000 people live in apartments, townhouses and houses tucked in the woods.

"It's more cosmopolitan than most suburban areas," said Gary Schreiner, who moved with his wife to Reston from McLean. "It's very European - there are people as well as shops. It lives after 5 p.m. too."

"It's a different type of suburban living," Carol Schreiner said. "You get a sense of belonging in Reston, a sense of togetherness. Even in the winter the plaza is really nice. You come down and see the people you know. You can sit on the steps and talk to them as they come by."

On Saturday celebrants could eat barbecued ribs, tacos, Cuban food, Indian food, Vietnamese food, Chinese food, hot dogs, teriyaki, cheesecake or brownies. Or they could shake hands with the candidates, working the crowd in a final effort before Tuesday's election.

The candidates were easy to pick out. "You can tell the tourists. They're the ones who are dressed up,"said Martin Holloway, who was there with his daughter Courtney.

The residents were dressed casually, as if they had wandered over from their backyards. They could dance, watch jousting from canoes, watch a mime, pet a llama, buy the standard array of artsy crafts, watch a play or stand around.

The Lade Anne Elementary Cheldrens Drama Group performed something called "The Big Bad Landlord."

"I've got to get out of the sun. I can't stand it," said one woman standing in the audience.

"I don't think you're missing a classic," her husband said.

"People who love Reston and people who hate it all come," said one Reston resident of the celebration. "It's theone thing that everybody does."

"It's the next best thing to Florida, and I can't go to Florida," said Pat Pike, a teacher who moved this year to Reston from Annandale. "The whole thing is a loose feeling."

Cornelia Raring and Anne Lyddan were there recruiting for the Newcomers Club, a group in existence about five years, designed to help make women who move to the area feel part of the community. "We have great programs, really. You don't just come and sit there like klutz," said Raring to a potential member.

This year's festival was "better ever than last year's," said Bette Fortin, who was there with her infant granddaughter, Angela Burneko. Fortin said she moved to Reston four years ago, figuring it was an ideal environment for a family. Her daughter, now married, lives in Reston and is bringing up Fortin's granddaughter there.

Gary Browing, who has lived in Reston a little more than a year, bicycled over to the celebration with his daughter Cari, 23 months old, on the back of the bike. "People don't seem to fee quite as alienated here," he said. "People come up and talk to you. People are cool."