The Fourth of July is generally considered a high-water mark both in the history of the United States and in the doldrums of the summer. People around the country tend to celebrate - with short vacations. solemn ceremonies and an increasing number of festive events. Last year's Fourth will be a hard act to follow, but the Smithsonian Institution is making a gallant effort to make this July 4th weekend something special in the way of a reminder of the pasr.

Planned by the Smithsonian's Division of Performing Arts, an old-fashioned celebration is scheduled from noon to 8:30 p.m. begining today and continuing through Monday, July 4th. All the activities are free and will take place at and around the National Museum of History and Technology. On the 4th, some area residents can even take the Metro down to the Mall (Smithsonian station), stay all day, watch the fireworks at the washington Monument in the evening - and take the Metro back home.

What's special about this event is its producers' understanding of the importance of getting a little sentimental every once in a while. Folks will be able to get sentimental this weekend over Dixieland bands and ballroom dancing . . . traditional gospel vocal styles and barbershop quarters . . . high-wheeled bikes and clowns and three-legged races . . . Punch and Judy . . . the harmonics of steel-band music . . . the easy rhytms of the big-band era. The Smithsonian deserves the thanks of the community for this opportunity to have what we think will be an old-fashioned good time.