They got their start singing the national anthem in their swimsuits.

But on Thursday afternoon, sisters Lindsay and Kasey Staniszewski were a long way from opening swim meets in Charles County. The girls, who are from Swan Point, performed on the Ellipse as part of the opening Thursday of the National Pageant of Peace, which included the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. They strolled through the crowd of chilly guests singing Christmas classics.

"So many people never even come to Washington, our nation's capital," said Kim Staniszewski, the girls' mother, in an interview before the tree lighting. "I think they really feel honored to be a part of this, even if it's a small part."

Lindsay, 17, and Kasey, 14, have been singing and acting in local musical theater productions since they were in elementary school but didn't start performing as a sister act until about four years ago.

One of their first performances was singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" before their swim meets.

"We'd sing in our Speedos," Lindsay said. "We'd just sing and then dive into the pool."

Since their splashy beginning, they have performed all over Charles County at school and church events, hospitals and anywhere else they're invited. But it is an event such as Thursday's Pageant of Peace opening that they hope will garner attention from the music industry.

"We hope by doing these things, someone will see us, and we'll make the right contacts," Lindsay said. "We're hoping someday we'll make the main stage."

The girls were in good company at the ceremony. Performers on the coveted main stage included gospel singer CeCe Winans, country singer Ricky Skaggs and Broadway star Dale Kristien, along with President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, who were on hand to flip the switch lighting the National Christmas Tree.

"We feel very honored," said Kasey, 14. "When we have seats so close to the president. . . . It's nice to be able to see him."

The sisters, who also performed at the tree lighting last year, were selected through an event coordinator who attends their church. As active members of their church and school, the singing sisters say they'll make good role models for young girls if they ever do hit it big.

"We kind of consider ourselves all-American girls," Lindsay said. "We hold strong to our beliefs."

The Staniszewski sisters sing mostly chart-topping pop and country songs, as well as Broadway tunes, but are hoping to recruit someone to write an original song for them to record as their next step toward show business.

"I would like for us to be famous . . . for us to hit it big," Kasey said.

But while they await their big break, the girls, who are honor students, remain active in school. Kasey, a freshman at La Plata High School, just made the school's dance team. Lindsay, a senior at La Plata, is president of her class and applying to colleges. She hopes to stay in the area so she can continue singing with her sister.

"We're really close in our relationship. We wouldn't really think of doing anything without each other," Kasey said.

Lindsay, left, and Kasey Staniszewski. "We hope by doing these things . . . we'll make the right contacts," Lindsay said of singing at the pageant.