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Family Fun on the Fourth

The Barcroft neighborhood celebrates the nation's independence day.

Residents of Barcroft lined the streets there Monday waving flags and sparklers as the neighborhood's community Fourth of July parade strutted down Eighth Street Monday.

"This is our biggest and most exciting event of the year," said Pat Williamson, president of the Barcroft Civic Association.

The parade featured homemade floats, Irish step dancers and a color guard from nearby Fort Myer. Like many celebrations on the Fourth, it also had a hot dog cookout for the more than 500 people who turned out for it. Working the grill, according to the cooks, took time and, in the hot summer sun, a good measure of determination.

"Timing, timing is everything on the grill," said grill master Scott Peterson, one of three charged with manning the smoking coals.

But the task of feeding the crowd was made all the more complicated Monday night when chef Phil Anderson noticed the grill was missing the metal grate used to hold the dogs. It had to be retro-fitted, said grill guy Alan Dickerson, with salvaged metal but the well-fed crowd was grateful for the team's skilled improvisation.

As the parade meandered the neighborhood, a marching band played patriotic tunes, running the gamut from "Yankee Doodle" to "It's a Grand Old Flag".

The parade passed Barcroft Elementary where judges evaluated each float and presentation. Contenders for first place included a hand crafted miniature rain forest on wheels and a towering Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Yet amid the festivities, the importance of Independence Day was not lost. For Bahar Hess, a Turkish émigré, being an American is a source of pride.

"I'm so proud to be in this country and to be a citizen," said Hess, a member of the Arlington Women's Club. "To me, the Fourth means a lot."

Independence Day became a national holiday in 1941 through an act of Congress. It celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that signaled the beginnings of a revolution in America's 13 original British colonies. But according to historians, not one signature was placed on the declaration that day at the Continental Congress in 1776. Most of the 56 names were in place by early August. One signer, Thomas McKean, did not sign the declaration until 1781. Of course, none of that has stopped anyone from having fun on the Fourth.