Adams-Morgan, the city's most diverse and colorful neighborhood, celebrated itself again this year with nine blocks packed full of thousands of visitors, 500 booths, six stages and one carnival.

The crowd, mostly wearing the uniform of the day -- shorts, T-shirts and running shoes -- quickly filled the area shortly after the noon opening to sample food, try on clothing, inspect artwork, drink beer, dance to the music, listen to very short political speeches, watch ballet and try out the carnival rides.

It seemed that just about everybody had an idea for things to sell at the eighth annual festival.

Hector Rodriguez, 43, gave mini-concerts on his $1 plastic bird whistles. "We're just having fun," he said. "For $1 you couldn't ask for much more."

Nathan Long, 21, was selling heavy wool sweaters from Mexico and Bolivia because, he said, "It's only hot if you think it's hot. Look at it this way, buy now for $40 what will cost you $65 this winter."

Ira Grossman, 41, decided to try selling battery-run stuffed dogs that barked and did somersaults. "It brings out the kid in me," he said.

Joe Grano, 40, a longtime booster of saving Rhodes Tavern, which was torn down a year ago, was selling his own newspaper, called The Rhodes Record, "because we feel Rhodes Tavern got a bad shake from the media and we don't want people to forget what happened there."

Susie Reed, 37, squeezed 1,610 lemons to make her own lemonade sold with half a squeezed lemon in each glass. "This is your basic all-American greed," she said. "I'm out here to pay the mortgage. There is a lot of money to be made in lemonade."

Stephen Oceans, 34, was doing a brisk business in plastic helmets outfitted with two holders for beer and a plastic tube running from the beer to the mouth of the wearer. By midafternoon, he said he had sold 50 of them for $10 apiece. "This is the right place for a hat like this," he said. "If this goes well today, I will try to to export them to Australia."

The chairman and founder of the festival, Hal Wheeler, 29, said the purpose of the festival was "to display the diversity of the community and to put aside squabbles and have a good time."

Wheeler estimated that this year's festival drew more than last year's 200,000 because of the 50 percent increase in the festival area. He said that last year, there were 350 booths and this year there were 500.

"I use that as a barometer of the crowd we will draw," he said. "We had to close off the applications 30 days ago. If we had more space, we could have taken even more vendors."

But it was a happy crowd that ate its way through offerings from at least 17 countries. Mini-crowds gathered at booths selling pizza, tacos, chili, meat pies, stuffed potatoes, sushi, shish kebab, barbecue, frozen drinks, fruit cups, cookies and cakes. Food was eaten standing up, sitting down on the curb or while ambling though the crowd. One hour into the festival, the widely spaced trash cans were already overflowing with discarded plates and cups.

The six stages were alternately busy with entertainment ranging from classic ballet to rock 'n' roll. One of the most popular groups was the 60-member Cambridge Harmonica Orchestra that stomped its way through rhythm and blues numbers to the delight of the crowd at the main stage.

Mayor Marion Barry, City Council Chairman David Clarke and Council member Frank A. Smith Jr. (D-Ward 1) each made brief appearances on stage.

Barry took on the cheerleader role and tried unsuccessfully to get crowd support for chants of "Frank Smith," "Adams-Morgan" and "Washington, D.C."

Rosa Rosero, 23, who said she moved to Adams-Morgan from Ecuador nine years ago, said she had watched the crowd arrive from her third-story apartment near 18th Street and Columbia Road.

"It is exciting," she said. "It is much fun. I like the music and I come to dance."

Another neighborhood resident, Ann Cherry, who did not want to give her age, showed off an Indian necklace that she had bought while en route to the Safeway to buy bread.

Cherry, a 20-year resident of the area, said the event was "colorful and hectic. In a way I like it, it is only one day and it means a lot to the people here."

Wearing a flowered dress, sturdy shoes, sunglasses and a baseball hat for the occasion, she said she was taking Spanish lessons so she could talk with her Spanish-speaking friends. "With my southern accent, I am having a terrible time but I keep on trying," she said.

"When I first moved here, it was all white and then over the years other people moved in," she said. "Spanish are the most recent to move in. I find this absolutely fascinating. This is history in the making. It is right here in front of our eyes."