Let the record show that Pat Carlson was the fan who got there first. Certain there would be a premium on good spots to watch Wayne Newton's Fourth of July debut on the mall, Carlson scampered into the city from Greenbelt and set up camp in front of the stage eight hours and 15 minutes before the show.
"In Las Vegas, seats like these would cost $100," he said.
Anticipating heat stroke, Carlson had eaten a handful of aspirin to keep his body from swelling up.
He was prepared to brave a day of remorseless sun and staggering humidity with nothing in the way of distraction but a portable TV, some tanning lotion, pretzels, sandwiches and a cooler of wine.
All day, in sundry fashion, tens of thousands of people joined him at parades, concerts, festivals and demonstrations marking the nation's 207th birthday.
As dusk fell, and Newton strolled on stage, launching into "This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land," a crowd estimated by U.S. Park Police at 225,000 sent up an appreciative roar. And an hour later to the music of "Thus Spake Zarathustra," coruscating showers of light burst above the Monument grounds with a violent crack that echoed through the rainy city streets, only to be answered by equally dazzling bolts of lightning that forked down from the thunderheads above. Events seemed to have conspired to climax the birthday celebration with a pyrotechnic conversation between the heavens and the Zambelli brothers, who handled the man-made half.
At the other end of the Mall, Park Police said another 85,000 gathered to hear Willie Stargell narrate Aaron Copland's "The Lincoln Portrait" and Leontyne Price sing "God Bless America," accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.
Metro officials said crowds leaving the Mall area dispersed without incident. Lines were as much as a half-block long at the Smithsonian and Federal Triangle Metro stations, but Metro and D.C. police were controlling the number of people entering the stations. In contrast to previous years, Metro officials said crowds on the subway platforms were orderly.
Newton's heavily amplified music seemed to drown out most of the controversy surrounding his appearance. A row of teen-agers did the can-can to "Elvira," and the crowd cheered after each number. But there were scattered pockets of people who booed heartily.
David Mull and his friends wore blue T-shirts that read, "the wrong element" after Secretary of Interior James Watt's celebrated description of the fans who attended last year's Beach Boys Independence Day concert.
"Seriously, the Fourth of July should be Budweiser and the Beach Boys," said Albert Green, a Springfield teen-ager who came to hiss Newton and watch the fireworks.
Newton acknowledged his detractors, saying, "One or two of you who might be booing might as well go home. We're gonna have a good time."
Yesterday's holiday pageant was interrupted by rain several times, and wilted by the 92-degree heat. The infernal swelter took its toll.
Area hospitals reported that 11 people were brought in for heat exhaustion, most of them members of marching bands who were dressed in black heat-absorbing uniforms. And Jim Boberg, the bass player of a 12-piece blues band that performed yesterday afternoon at the Washington monument, reported that the humidity had caused an outbreak of fungus on the strings of his instrument.
There was a brief respite of cool wind before the rain drenched the parade down Constitution Avenue. The thunder cracked along with the bass drums of the Gold Apple marching band from Wenatchee, Wash. The rain, which divided the crowd into two camps--those who took it on the head and those who took cover--inspired a well-meaning homily from one of the parade announcers.
"We have gone through many storms," he said, addressing a captive audience at the Ellipse. "And many trying times. We have been rained upon. But we are a great nation and we will weather the storms."
Like patriotic sentiment, the hallmarks of the holiday were everywhere, from the orange pylons in the street to the portable johns in the parks. You could take a rich inventory of fifes and tri-corner hats, drum majorettes from Bismarck, N.D., and dogs with flags in their mouths. Or a catalogue of noises that would warm the ears of the avant garde: whistles, bells, jets, tubas, string music, kids hollering for food, and somebody named Bill from the underground economy peddling "cold Bud" out of a plastic garbage can. This is not to mention the fireworks that hammered the holiday home.
There was a demonstration of a silk loom at the Folk Life festival on the Mall, and a demonstration of a different sort by the Yippies on Pennsylvania Avenue. Both were annual events, and both drew crowds in a city where the Fourth of July has traditionally blurred the line between spectator and spectacle.
Elsewhere on the Fourth, the Beach Boys played in Atlantic City for free, and Dr. J. read from the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia and American servicemen had beer and hotdogs off the coast of Lebanon. And Calvin Jones from Putnam County, W. Va., reportedly planned to hire a helicopter and drop a thousand one-dollar bills over the Teays valley west of Charleston.
But the anniversary of the nation's independence swims into focus in Washington as it does nowhere else, standing vividly against the city's postcard backdrop, with marble history, oratorical inscriptions and I-Saw-Washington T-shirt vendors stationed at every turn.
This was attested to at Constitution and 14th by a man who wished to be known simply as The Man From Canada but who was able to wax poetic, despite the humidity.
"I'm just a tourist, I'm like thousands of these others," he said. "But this is a great parade. First of all there's lots of room. Second, the bands are sensational. And third, there's a feeling--you just want to be here. Look at all those foreigners. Those are Germans. And they had Indians in front. That's America. It's got problems, but it's the greatest country in the world. There's just one bad thing. There was a limousine, and there was nobody in it."
Three-year-old Mathew Wilner would have agreed with the Man From Canada, insofar as Snow Cones were concerned. His face was furrowed with concentration as he drained the juice out of the rainbow-colored concoction. He sat next to Marika Fagan, who was 4, and who looked like him but was not related, except by Snow Cone.
"It's the only time they're quiet," said Marika's mother.
Bertha Chapman beamed at the passing show from her perch at 12th Street. An elderly woman with a heart condition that a hot day and the excitement of a parade could aggravate, she decided she would be just as hot at home, and boarded the subway with a chair, an umbrella, and a hand-held fan from John T. Rhines Funeral Home. "I braved the heat," she said proudly.
When the rains came some of the bands tucked their plumes under their hats. The downpour sopped the giant flag that hung from the extended ladders of two fire trucks. High school students splashed through pools of rain. The sun emerged again, and the humidity clamped down instantly. By late afternoon, patches of blue appeared amid cumulus clouds that looked like gobs of shaving cream.
On the mall a stage hand setting up the microphones for Wayne Newton, hauled on a line, and muttered about the media giving his boss a hard time. Newton's concert was delayed almost an hour when another downpour drenched the area early last night.
Meanwhile Pat Carlson had company in the form of Sandy Groenke, who was nearly as eager to stake out a front row seat as he. She arrived a half-hour later, provisioned only with two packages of sparklers and two Big Gulp drinks.
"As soon as it came out that Wayne was going to be playing in Washington, I knew I was going to be right here," Groenke said, tapping the ground by the chain link fence.
Did she and the other fanatical fan know each other?
"We do now," she said.