It was the kind of Fourth of July it was supposed to be.It was one of summer's steamy dog days that began with a flourish of the red, white and blue and ended the same way.

Northern Virginia might have been hundreds of miles away from the nation's capital Monday, as families, their friends and their dogs parked the lawn blankets at local Fourth of July fests well outside the city.

"Let the tourists snarl up in their own traffic over there (the Dh at Wolf Trap Farm listening to the Air Force chorus andh at Wolf Trap Farm listening to the Air Force chorus and band. "The beer tastes just as good here, and there's space to breathe besides. I'm not movin' till the fireworks are over."

Northern Virginia's Fourth began with a 10 a.m. parade in Arlington - an hour affair that held some surprises and drew a handful of local officials and crowds of Arlingtonians.

Coke went down like water under the hot sun that surprisingly failed to melt a wax image of President Jimmy Carter from the Wax Museum in Southwest Washington.

Seated in an open antique limousine on the sidelines of the parade, the replica provoked more than a few doubletakes by children and their parents alike.

A chorus of boos went up around the parade reveiwing stand when a small contingency from the National Socialist White People's Party passed by, in black uniforms with red armbands bearing swastikas. The group has been in the parade for three years.

Their presence caused Arlington board member John Purdy to refuse an invitation last week t ride in the parade.

"With a little imagination we should be able to figure out a way to exclude this group," Purdy said after the parade. "It's is an insult to the celebration of our nation's heritage and birthday to have people who wear the Nazi symbol parade with us."

Most of the entries, however, were more typical of a suburban community. The Boy Scouts, the Jaycees, civic leagues, church groups, the YMCA, dance schools, high school drill teams and majorettes in sequined body suits and white boots, antique cars and clowns all passed by to the cheers and applause of the crowd.

A huge green crepe paper float sponsored by the Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University 4-H Extension won first prize, but the entry that sparked the most attention was a truckload of older women calling themselves the Senior Adults Rhythm Band.

All looking like aged Shirley Temples in ribbons and curls, they rapped tambourines with fingers, elbows and knees, wiggling while harmonizing songs from the 30s.

"Parades like this you real home-town feeling," said William Cochran of Arlington, who has gone to the parades for five years. "We put our flag out first thing in the morning, and then was come to the parade. The Fourth is the one day we have that's patriotic."

But flag waving and baton twirling were no part of the Fourth of July at Colvin Run Mill off Route 7 in Fairfax County. Here, celebrating the Fourth was a sedate event, marked by 19th Century games and crafts.

People listened quietly to mountain music on guitars and dulcimers performed on one side of the rolling, wooded grounds surrounding the old brick Colvin Run mill, and they doubled over in laughter on the other side of the building, where school-age children competed to reach the top of a greased pole.

Kids slid down from the pole looking like street urchins out of Charles Dickens' stories, their clothes and faces blackened by the grease. Spectators laughed in delight to learn that a wiry 10-year-old girl beat all the boys in climbing closest to the top.

Like traveling shows of old snake handlers pointed out the differences among several varieties of snakes, holding high a cooperahead to display the beige and brown coloring and butterfly design shade to share picnic lunches.

"This is a real old-fashioned Fourth," said Catherine Underhill of Falls Church, who brough her three children to Colvin Run Mill, where her husband demonstrated woodcarving. "I guess we don't talk enough about what the Fourth means. Getting out and being with people makes you feel more patriotic tan you'd expect."

Leaving Colvin Run Mill for Wolf Trap Farm was another study in contrasts.

Masses of people, 6,000 during the day by park personnel estimates, hauled more than they could carry in oversized coolers, blankets, hibachis and games from the sea of cars sprawling below the Wolf Trap concert hall to sloping hills surrounding it.

Some set up beach umbrellas and meals around their cars in the burning-hot parking lot, seemingly oblivious to car fumes or dust from the gravelly pavement.

The voices and instruments of the Air Force chorus and band bellowed throughout the grounds, captivating some older listeners, being ignored by children playing games of chase.

The crowds swelled to 10,000 by nightfall to wait for fireworks that were set off in a small valley and soared high above the countryside.

At the same time, fireworks crackled above the stadium at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.The first burst of color sent children shrinking back into their parents' arms as the streams of red and blue appeared to rain down upon them.

The Alexandria setting was definitely for the children. Part of the football field was reserved for them to romp and play and tease. Lines as long as those for "Star Wars" waited for entry into a "moon walk" stationed there. They spilled their Coke on their new summer outfits, smeared popsicles across their faces, crowded around a huge dancing personification of Winnie the Pooh and dropped into silence when night-fall signaled the start of the fireworks.

"Can we come again next year, Mom?" said more than one child, as everyone headed out to their cars to fight the glut of traffic marking the end of America's birthday, 1977.