BRIGHT SPOTS ON A SOGGY DAY

Some events can­celed or de­layed, but pa­tri­otic spirit wasn’t damp­ened

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KOH, WILL GREEN­BERG AND FAIZ SID­DIQUI

Spec­ta­tors en­joy the aerial show— undis­turbed by rain— near the Washington Mon­u­ment. Through­out the day, how­ever, many who

had gath­ered out­doors for pa­rades and bar­be­cues had to run for cover dur­ing fre­quent down­pours.

Not the rain, not the seas of mud or the sop­ping-wet grass could pre­vent a huge, ea­ger and en­thu­si­as­tic crowd from gath­er­ing on the Mall on Satur­day night to celebrate the coun­try’s birth­day by watch­ing and cheer­ing at the an­nual fire­works show.

Wav­ing small flags, at­tired in the red, white and blue of the Amer­i­can flag, they sat hap­pily on the steps of the Capi­tol, the Jef­fer­son Me­mo­rial and the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial, and they filled the broad lawn be­low the Washington Mon­u­ment, join­ing to­gether to mark the coun­try’s birth­day in a tra­di­tional fash­ion.

“God bless Amer­ica,” said Kane Phillips, 18, who was with his mis­sion group from Ten­nessee.

“I’m very proud ofmy coun­try,” he said at the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial.

Nearby wa­ter­ways turned or­ange with the re­flec­tion of the glare from the dis­play of py­rotech­nics, and crowds cheered, ap­plauded and ex­pressed awe.

“There’s just some­thing about hav­ing the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial at that end and the mon­u­ment at this end, and the fire­works echo­ing off of them,” said Mike Drnec of El­li­cott City, Md., who has been at­tend­ing for 25 years. “There’s just noth­ing like it.”

Rain had del­uged the Mall only a few hours ear­lier. Some had enough, but many stuck it out. “There was a point it was rain­ing so hard we al­most gave up,” said Gerald Win­ter, who trav­eled from Freeport, Ill., to spend the hol­i­day with fam­ily from Rockville. But they kept walk­ing un­til they found a good spot at Franklin De­lano Roo­sevelt Me­mo­rial in West Po­tomac Park.

Some have been com­ing to see the fire­works for years, in­clud­ing Myra Gochnour, wear­ing a blue vest with white stars. She had plopped down along­side her friend and fel­low den­tist, Joanne Adamski. Adamski, of Po­tomac, Md., wore a white shirt with red stripes to make a joint state­ment of sar­to­rial pa­tri­o­tism.

The crowd watched in amaze­ment as one bril­liant burst fol­lowed another af­ter another in the skies above the mon­u­ment, with flash fol­low­ing flare like flow­ers still un­fold­ing against the bright back­ground cre­ated by the ear­lier blooms.

“It’s the best party ever,” said Robin Cot­ton of Bethesda, Md.

“Even if it makes me jit­tery for a minute,” said Iraq war vet­eran Aaron Rogers, “it’s worth it to see the fire­works.”

Ear­lier in the day, things seemed touch and go.

“It’s com­ing down, and it’s too much,” Roberto Yanez said of the pound­ing rain. The down­pour prompted his fam­ily to head home to Beltsville, Md., as all around him peo­ple scam­pered for shel­ter, in­clud­ing some who lost flip-flops and sneak­ers as they ran.

At RFK Sta­dium, hun­dreds of spec­ta­tors at a Foo Fight­ers con­cert were or­dered off the field, un­til the rain ended.

The White House can­celed a 6 p.m. pic­nic that Pres­i­dent Obama was to host for the mil­i­tary and their fam­i­lies, though a later event at the man­sion, fea­tur­ing a per­for­mance by Bruno Mars, was still sched­uled for 8:45 p.m.

As spasms of rain in­truded on the morn­ing and af­ter­noon, the day turned into a wa­ter­logged mess of pa­tri­otic and whim­si­cal rit­u­als that in­cluded trum­pet-blar­ing pro­ces­sions, backyard bar­be­cues, recita­tions of the Pledge of Al­le­giance, and at least one hot-dog-eat­ing con­test.

By late af­ter­noon, the main pre­oc­cu­pa­tion was stay­ing dry. At the Na­tional Gallery of Art, tourists hud­dled on the front steps.

Alicia Her­nan­dez and her sis­ters Sharon and Erika drove from Ne­braska to visit Washington for the first time, only to find them­selves camped out in­side the mu­seum’s en­trance. “We drove so far,” Erika Her­nan­dez said.

AT RFK, mo­ments af­ter Joan Jett fin­ished “I Hate My­self for Lov­ing You,” ush­ers be­gan mov­ing peo­ple into the swel­ter­ing con­course where boom­ing chants of “USA! USA!”— an­dat lea­s­t­one full but de­cid­edly off-key ren­di­tion of the na­tional an­them — broke out. Forty-five min­utes later, peo­ple were al­lowed back to the field.

Ear­lier in the day, a solid wall of spec­ta­tors lined Con­sti­tu­tion Av­enue NW in down­town Washington, hold­ing their selfie sticks and smart­phones aloft as they cheered a for­ma­tion of mo­tor­cy­cle cops revving their en­gines and ba­ton­twirling bands high-step­ping be­hind them.

A morn­ing down­pour forced the de­lay of a num­ber of events. At the Na­tional Ar­chives, a few hun­dred peo­ple signed a replica of the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence be­fore the rain forced or­ga­niz­ers to halt the event.

Kayla Gowdy, who ar­rived at the Mall at 8:30 a.m., hun­kered down with two friends on the wet Ar­chives steps, with plans to stick around for the fire­works show at night­fall. “I’ll sit in the rain for Amer­ica,” she said.

Across the Po­tomac River, a crowd at Mount Ver­non— Ge­orge Washington’s home — re­cited the Pledge of Al­le­giance as they watched 100 peo­ple from 45 coun­tries be­come U.S. cit­i­zens in a spe­cial nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony.

Jones Manga, 25, an Army re­servist who was born in Cameroon, was in uni­form as he re­ceived his cit­i­zen­ship. “I felt like a dif­fer­ent man,” Manga said af­ter­ward.

So did Thomas Jung, who clenched his stom­ach af­ter the in au­gu­ral Vi­enna Chili Dog Eat­ing Con­test in Vi­enna, Va. He had just won by gob­bling 11 Vi­enna Inn chili dogs. “Easy, easy,” he said as his 10-year-old daugh­ter Han­nah bolted to­ward him for a hug. “I feel aw­ful.”

In the Dis­trict, the In­de­pen­dence Day pa­rade fea­tured march­ing bands and per­form­ers from all over the coun­try. Iowa’s Davenport Cen­tral March­ing Blue Devils twirled red, white and blue flags.

Anum­ber of eth­nic groups also trav­eled the route, in­clud­ing Sikhs and South Viet­namese, their floats blend­ing cul­tural mark­ers with Amer­i­can sym­bols to stress a mes­sage of ac­cep­tance and in­clu­sion,

“I’m here to celebrate Amer­ica’s birth­day,” said Ann Gor­don, 62, of At­lanta, stand­ing at Sev­enth Street NW, as her hus­band, Rusty — sport­ing two small Amer­i­can flags tucked into each of his back pock­ets— nod­ded in agree­ment.

“Its been a year of strife on a world­wide ba­sis, so I thought it was a good time for [Amer­i­cans] to re­assert our­selves,” Rusty Gor­don said.

Martin Weil, Paul Schwartz­man, Wil­born P. Nobles III, Chris­tine Ayala and John Woodrow Cox con­trib­uted to this re­port.

JABIN BOTS­FORD/THE WASHINGTON POST

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