"Does it stink?" asked wide-eyed, 4-year-old Jubril Wilson as he watched a skunk snuggle in the crooked arm of a Rock Creek Nature Center ranger.
The ranger assured him that it didn't and that the snake in front of him wasn't poisonous and that the groundhog at his feet did not bite. As the day wore on, Wilson found that even the dog attack was staged at the Friendship Fair and Parade.
The exhibits and demonstrations that drew Wilson and hundreds of others to the event in Northwest Washington Saturday were part of an effort by the neighborhood to create community solidarity. The fair and parade were sponsored by the Friendship Heights Citizens Association (FHCA), the D.C. Department of Recreation and the National Park Service.
Paul Peachey, FHCA president, explained that several groups have formed in recent years over local issues. As a result, "we felt that the older organization (FHCA) had a responsibility to build a feeling of neighborhood solidarity," he said. It takes events like a neighborhood fair to give the groups an opportunity to get acquainted, Peachey said.
Other organizations involved in the activities were the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) and the Friendship Neighborhood Coalition, a group concerned largerly with zoning and traffic problems.
City Council members, Gray Panthers, babpipers and the Secret Service Color Guard were among those who marched in the two-hour parade through Friendship Heights as people of all ages lined the streets.
After the parade, spectators walked to Reno Park, where over 30 booths peppered the three-acre lot with a variety of exotic foods, carnival-like entertainment and informative demonstrations.
"There's a lot of different ethnic backgrounds here today," said Karen Johnson, 23, of 4105 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Johnson, an off-duty District police officer, said she and her daughter Tiffany, 5, appreciated having the free time and chance to relax and enjoy the day's activities.
"It's nice to be on the other side for a change," Johnson said, gesturing toward a group of uniformed officers.
Nearby, some square dancers in a tangled do-si-do invited some American Agriculture Movement members from Virginia to join in the Virginia Reel. The farmers were selling 800 poinds of barbeque near the dance area.
At one point, a gunshot rang through the area, causing heads to turn and children to scream. The shot signaled a demonstration of a police dog attack staged by the Police Department Canine Division. A department employe, who was well protected with padded gear, fought with a specially trained dog until its master commanded it to stop.
The ponies were a favorite of children, who waited in a long line to ride three small Shetlands.
First in line was seven-year-old Wendy Hunt, of 4444 Abermarle St. NW. The fair-haired equestrienne said she enjoyed the adventure, althoug she confessed that "the ride was bumpy."
In another section of the park, one of a sucession of folk bands played as Jull Turner, 17, and Glenn Russell, 17, sat on the grass, enjoying the music.
Oblivious to the afternoon's commotion and threatening skies were several couples who tossed frisbees across an open field.
A giggling crowd formed around two young jugglers from Silver Spring who performed only for the preasure of being the center of attention.
Elsewhere in the park, a police helicopter on display took off, trailed by a hundred pairs of transfixed eyes.
The fair and parade were orginally scheduled for May, but had been postponed due to rain. Peachey said he believes that other fairs will follow.
The funds for the event were raised through donations and advertising, Peachey said. CAPTION: Picture, A police department helicopter was one attraction at Friendship Heights fair. By Michael Ford Parks - The Washington Post