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Mount Vernon Celebrates the Fourth of July

Celebrations came in all sizes last weekend — picnics and family gatherings, the hometown parade and celebration at Waynewood, Independence Day ceremony at Mount Vernon, the Freedom Fest Celebration at Fort Belvoir, fireworks at Lee District Park, and the concert and fireworks on the National Mall. There was something for everybody, with combinations of red, white and blue seen all around.

At Mount Vernon Estate, guests from all over the country lined up throughout the day to participate in the special activities there. The early-morning celebration began with 18th-century music by David and Ginger Hildebrand and continued with a re-enactment of the Bowling Green inspection by members of the 1st Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line.

Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) led a procession to George Washington's tomb, where a memorial wreath was laid, marking the 41st anniversary of the chapter's participation in the Independence Day ceremony at Mount Vernon.

After the wreath-laying ceremony, visitors enjoyed an all-American birthday cake and listened to music by the National Concert Band of America.

Stephanie Brown, director of marketing at the estate, said that they welcomed more than 4,000 guests to Mount Vernon on the Fourth and served 16 birthday cakes.

"People loved the 1st Virginia Regiment, it's very exciting to see them march across the Bowling Green," said Brown.

An added highlight this year was the appearance by two senior defense officials from the Pentagon, Rear Admiral Nancy Brown and Victor Bernson, director of the office of legislative counsel. They were recognized by the Sons of the American Revolution as part of "Operation Tribute to Freedom," a series of events from Memorial Day to Veterans Day. Brown said that it was done to represent troops who fought in Iraq and who are still over there.

OVER IN THE Waynewood community, children gathered in the parking lot at the elementary school for the annual parade. Led by the local police and firefighters, it was a little delayed when the lead fire truck was called away for an emergency. The parade eventually made its way down Waynewood Boulevard with the police and firefighters, followed by members of Cub Scout Pack 1504. An array of walkers, bikers and floats filled out the ranks of the parade. Several local politicians marched in the parade this year, and members of the Park Police mounted on horses brought up the rear.

The festivities continued at the Waynewood pool with the singing of the national anthem by Katie Weeks, a recent graduate from George Mason University; members of Cub Scout Pack 1504 were on hand to serve as color guard.

Children and adults then made their way to midway games and rides, food and a cake walk. Some sat and enjoyed music by the senior staff, while others cooled themselves off in the pool, which was open to the public for the day.

Things were pretty much wrapped up by 2 p.m., but there was one more event: the annual watermelon toss. Coordinated by Pat Akstin, groups tried their skill at latching onto one of several greased melons, which were tossed into the pool.

Things started to heat up later in the day at Fort Belvoir, when Red Hot & Blue started serving their famous barbecue, and the New World Band started playing. Children had a chance to show off their patriotic colors in the Freedom Fest Kids' Parade. The Army Materiel Command (AMC) Concert Band played until the fireworks display began at 9:30 p.m.

Cathy McPeek went to Fort Belvoir with her husband and daughter and said, "The fireworks were great. Viewing was from the soccer fields. The Army Field Band played before, and there was a lot of food available."

At Lee District Park, fireworks followed an evening of live music and international food. Downtown on the Mall, people either made their way to the Capitol for the concert or waited on the side roads or in their boats for the fireworks display, which began shortly after 9:30 p.m.