The first question to Mayor Walter E. Washington from the Shriner clown wearing a checker-board shirt and shoes as big as his head was, "How's the campaign going, mayor?"
The mayor, on the grandstand at the D.C. Recreation Department's annual parade to begin its season of summer events, reached over and grabbled the black rubber tubing the clown was shoving at him Eke a microphone and said: "It's going strong, going strong."
Although it was not an official campaign event, yesterday's parade created the kind of situation that politicians love most as parading children attracted, crowds of voting parents. District politicians took the opportunity to pass out campaign leaflets, shake hands and ride down Constitution Avenue.
After the parade the Recreation Department held a fair on the Ellipse that was highlighted by parachutists who leaped out of a helicopter over the Washington Monument. Some of the parachutists had smoke making devices that left streams of colored smoke in the afternoon sky.
But at the parade it was fun and politics with the mayor and one of his chief opponents in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, Marion Barry, in attendance.
City Council members from almost every ward in the city and some of their opponents in the upcoming election also took the opportunity to parade down the avenue with 8,000 other marchers and wave at the aproximately 1,500 persons who watched the parade.
"It's like a small town parade with all the politicians," said Willie Powell of Southwest Washington as he sat on the crub eating a cherry snowcone and watching the parade. "I like to check them out and see if they are having a good time. I wouldn't vote for nobody that wouldn't have a good time at a parade."
Robert Allen of Southeast Washington said the politicians may have been responsible for making the parade so much fun.
"This is the best parade I've seen put on in the District," he said. "They've got a lot of nice stuff out there . . . like the bicyclists. When I went to school at Brown Junior High and Eastern we never had a parade like this . . ."
The crowd at the parade was sparse although the parade featured 175 units of floats, marching bands and drill teams representing the 143 recreation centers in the city, the D.C. National Guard the Police Department and others.
"I'm disappointed that so few people turned out," said Mrs. Donald Ward, of El Paso, Tex Ward said she stayed in Washington an extra day just to see the parade.
"It's amazing that Washington has such a big Recreation Department . . . and it's all free. We don't have anything like this in El Paso."
The parade was followed by the fair on the Ellipse, where hundreds more went for many pony rides, boxing matches and the parachutists.
After the parade, several of the politicians made another campaign stop: a candidates forum at the Martin Luther King Library sponsored by the D.C. Young Democratis.
"We felt it (the forum) came off pretty well," said S. Earl Pope, president of the Young Democrats. "We had all of the candidates here excepts for the mayor, Doug Moore and John Ray and they all spoke to the important youth issues, employment, housing and education."