With a cacophony of music, small-town pride and subversive political humor, Takoma Park's day-late Fourth of July parade stepped off yesterday morning -- and the city got the last laugh.

Not a drop of precipitation, or even the threat of such, marred its 115th annual celebration of this nation's independence. In satisfying contrast to the deluges that forced other jurisdictions to abort or postpone events scheduled on the traditional day of July 4, no one went running for cover. The umbrellas extended during the festivity warded off sun, not rain.

Given the ribbing Takoma Park had endured since announcing it would delay its patriotism for varied logistical reasons, the weather seemed a clear sign: The community that always marches to its own drummer had made the right decision.

"Today we are fortunate to have a real parade," master of ceremonies Mary Ann McGuire, resplendent in a red, white and blue sequined vest, announced from the grandstand just before 10:30 in the morning. "And real weather for a parade."

In real Takoma Park style, too. Some years that means a float adorned with pink flamingos and gay pride, other years a contingent of reel lawn mowers.

Always it means exuberantly eclectic fun, nursery school children and their parents participating along with dance clubs and the fire squad, the local food co-op and Babe Ruth baseball and softball league, several veterans posts, especially creative civic associations, a few elected officials and clowns, even a dog training team (both of the two- and four-legged variety).

"It's the most wonderfully tacky parade," laughed longtime attendee Robin Shatenstein of Silver Spring, who was encamped yesterday at Maple and Philadelphia avenues, a prime viewing spot for everything coming and going.

Those fortunate enough to live on Maple, on which the spectacle always travels its half-dozen blocks, enjoy front-row seats and invite current and former neighbors, and like-minded souls from all over. Mark Shupe and Judy Jaffie's steep front yard resembled a theater balcony of plastic chairs; after 19 years of hosting, they expected more than three dozen people for the day.

"It's a real small-town parade," said Shupe, who knows of such things from childhood experience, when the big thrill was being the Cub scout chosen to carry the flag. "But Takoma Park has some of its own flair. We didn't have a lawn mower . . . procession when I was growing up in Upstate New York."

Nor did they have the kind of political theater provided in good-natured competition by various neighborhood groups.

Grant Avenue offered up a giant gray-and-yellow cardboard Humvee that was propelled Fred Flintstone-style by nearly a dozen hot and sweaty denizens of that street. Labeled "Weapon of Mass Consumption" for its figuratively unquenchable thirst for fuel, it careened wildly right and left along the route with Dan Robinson as driver.

"Every five seconds, we run out of gas," he explained with a grin.

The presidential campaign was never far removed, with marchers in the Sherman Avenue "Bush Country" entry chanting, tongue firmly in cheek, "Don't think -- vote Bush" as they passed by. "Billionaires for Bush" appeared a few minutes later, in tuxedos and evening gowns.

Zydeco mixed with country mixed with bagpipes, a melange of music that, by the end, reflected the diverse sweep of Takoma Park itself. The final beat was reggae as extravagantly plumaged dancers from a Caribbean-themed company strutted toward the grandstand shortly before noon.

And as they did, many in the crowd fell in behind them, with strollers and flags and decorations of all stars and stripes. A scene worthy of Norman Rockwell.

It wouldn't be a parade without a manual lawn mower, and Jack Werner had the honors. Dance clubs and the local food co-op also participated in the parade.Murphy, a cockapoo, performs tricks for the crowd with a little coaxing from owner Cheryl White. They joined others from a dog training school. Rhodesia Fox, 6, is in the patriotic spirit as she marches down Carroll Avenue surrounded by flags.