With parades by the United House of Prayer for All People and the All African People's Revolutionary Party highlighting the day, thousands of Washingtonians elected to stay in the area for the Memorial Day weekend, picnicking in their yards and local parks while enjoying temperatures in the low 70s under slightly overcast skies.

It was a festive atmosphere at the Meridian Hill Park (also known as Malcolm X Park) at 15th and Euclid streets NW as about 3,000 people gathered for the 25th anniversity of African Liberation Day. The event featured a march east of the park and down to 13th and U streets NW through the Cardozo section of the city, and performances by the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers.

Also yesterday, The United House of Prayer celebrated the opening of McCollough's Plaza, a complex of church-owned apartment buildings at Seventh and L streets NW, named after the church leader Bishop Walter McCollough. The parade wound through the Shaw neighborhood where the main church is located.

Both events added a special flavor to the day as residents along the parade routes pulled out chairs and drinks. Some applauded while others joined in the marches.

"Get into action, organize. Build the AAPRP," the African Liberation Day marchers chanted as they proceeded along U Street NW. The marchers returned to the park where they heard speeches and pleas for new recruits for the All African People's Revolutionary Party. The activities ended with with an African cultural festival at Howard University.

The United House of Prayer bands had residents dancing in the streets with their rendition of the theme song from "2001: Space Odyssey." When the parade returned to the church at Sixth and M Streets NW, the marchers were greeted by Bishop McCollough who waved from a reviewing stand.

The day's festivities went on schedule despite the constant threat of rain. The National Weather Service said it was cloudy just about everywhere in the Washington area yesterday. The high temperature Saturday was 71 degrees.

The forecast for today was partly sunny with the chance of intermittent showers and a high in the upper 70s. Morning showers were expected on Memorial Day, with clearing skies in the afternoon.

For those staying in town this weekend, there was less congestion on the streets and in the parks. Picnickers who ventured out to Greenbelt Park yesterday were pleasantly surprised to find that they did not have to scramble for tables. The park was serene without the usual gathering of picnickers on the first day of a long weekend, and several barbecuers said that the crowd was sparse probably because many local residents headed out of town for the holiday.

"It's dangerous being out on the highway." said 38-year-old Jerry Whittaker of Bladensburg. He and his wife Donna, 30, decided to picnic alone in Greenbelt rather than fight holiday traffic. "Everyone we talked to was headed for the beaches or camping . . . we had quite a few invitations."

Meanwhile, on the shore yesterday, Ocean City police reported a mostly clear day at the beaches with crowds approaching the usual Memorial Day size. A spokesman for the Chamber of Commerce estimated that 100,000 people were on hand to celebrate the weekend.

"It's just about what we expected," said Anne Fauntleroy, of the chamber. "Historically, it's not as large as July 4 or Labor Day, but the beaches are full and it looks good."