The celebrants came from as far away as California to join city residents for the pomp and gaiety of Washington's Fourth of July festivities.

They flocked to the White House, surrounded the Washington monument, lined Constitution Avenue to watch the parade, eagerly sought good vantage points for the fireworks and crowded the Smithsonian's Museum of History and Technology.

"We've been enjoying the day pretty well," said Albert Rucker, 39. He and his wife Peggy, 38, had come from Akron, Ohio with their five children, ages 8 to 16. The nation's capitol is just the place to be."

"Last night we say the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. And it made me feel more involved with being an American. The Fourth of July means you're happy to be a part of this country and free."

Rucker, who is an assembler for the BMW Company is Barberton, Ohio said this was his family's first visit here.

One of the major centers of holiday activity was the special "Nation of Nations" exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of History and Technology. Spectators were entertained by puppeteers, craftsmen and art displays on the museum's South Terrace.

In contrast to the peals of laughter from the youngsters on the terrace lawn was the somber appearance of Uncle Sam strolling along the walkway.

"It's a new experience for me," said former Springfield, Ore., resident Daniel Harris after hav ing his picture taken with Uncle Sam.

"I like occasions like this. It gives people a chance to be patriotic if they want to. And I'm patriotic," he said. "Why else would I have my picture taken with Uncle Sam?"

Harris, 24 said he came to Washington three months ago to become a staff assistant for Sen. Mark O. Hatfield (D-Ore). He now resides in Alexandria, Va.

"All the sights and feelings all the monuments seem to have a different feeling today," he said.

Susan Remis, a 20-year-old liberal arts major at Cornell University, expressed that feeling in one word.

"Relaxed," said the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., resident. "Last year people were trying to be too bicentennial."

Wood artist Dennis (Destroy Stroy, 35, of 5301 8th St. NW assisted volunteers with sculpting a piece of wood into a totem pole. Billed as the Giant Woodpecker, Stroy had little woodpeckers volunteering most of the day.

As Stroy sculpted, potters William (Bud) Wilkinson and Renee Altman demonstrated their craft while puppeteer Lynnie Raybuck held youngsters spellbound with the crazy antics of Punch and Judy.

Ghostly figures of America's past, and present started up from the Smithsonian's sidewalks through the colorful chalk artistry of Mark Champagne.

Champagne, 24, of Gaithersburg, and a fourth year fine arts student at the Corcoran Gallery, had spent 18 hours on his knees creating four scenes depicting American history.

The included George Washington the signing of the Declaration of Independence; The Spirit of 76; Benjamin Franklin, and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Each scene was accompanied by a historical quote.

"The quote and drawings may give people something to think about, instead of just pretty entertainment," said Champagne. "I feel good about that."

Over at the Monument grounds, Blanca Ranghel, a beautician, 55, and her son Aparicio, 25, both of 7407 Carroll Ave., Tacoma Park. Md. sat side by side in lounge chairs peering up at the sky.

They had ridden on the Metro. And now they were settling back to enjoy the fireworks over the Washington Monument grounds.

"I was talking with my mother," said Ranghel, who is an assistant mechanical manager at the John Sexton Co., Landover, "and we find the celebrating of this 201st birthday is more relaxed, not so frantic as last year. We're really enjoying it."

Earlier during the day tourists had lined up to visit the Monument and watch the parade the District Jaycess had hosted down Constitution Avenue.

Watching her first Fourth of July parade, Inez Haynes, 50, had been thrilled by the pomp and music of the Chicago Warriors Drum and Bugle Corp. Haynes, who came to the United States seven years ago from Trinidad, West Indies, said she enjoyed the festivities.

Mr. and Mrs. William L. Martin of Birmingham, Ala, had returned to the capital, 15 years after their first visit to again enjoy a Washington Fourth of July. This time they brought their four children, ages 8-13.

And Shashikant Suthar, 36, his wife Krinim, 30, and their 8-year-old son Bhavin had finally made it to the Monument.

"We waited for a long time to come see the Capitol, the Monument and the Smithsonian Museum," said Suthar, a civil engineer now living in Metairie, La.

"My boy wants to see Mr. Carter. They've been wondering about the president and this country," he said of his family.

"I've got a little Uncle Sam doll," said 8-year-old Bhavin, his face beaming.

The Suthars said they came from Bombay, India four years ago. Before they return, they hope to make a crosscountry tour of the Unites States and Canada. Now they were ready to enjoy the fireworks. Soon the sky was lit up by kaleidiscopic colors against a backdrop of smoky gray night.

The air exploded with the thunder American flags whipped in the wind. Patriotic music rang through the night, while hundreds of thousands of spectators sat like shepherds on a hillside viewing the wonders in the sky.