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Thousands Celebrate Fourth Of July On National Mall

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Fireworks burst in air behind the Capitol and Washington Monument as thousands enjoyed Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Fireworks burst in air behind the Capitol and Washington Monument as thousands enjoyed Independence Day celebrations on the National Mall. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — Thousands of revelers were celebrating the Fourth of July in the nation’s capital under clear skies Friday, despite initial fears that rain from Hurricane Arthur could ruin their fun.

Visitors to the National Mall gazed at the White House and the Washington Monument and strolled through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured food, music and cultural demonstrations from China and Kenya.

Revelers spread out on the lawn with picnics and cold drinks to watch the fireworks display after a concert with performances by Patti LaBelle, Jordin Sparks and John Williams, who played a new arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Cedric and Sharon Stallworth spent 11 sweaty hours in the car on Thursday, driving all the way from Atlanta to Washington to celebrate Independence Day among the monuments on the National Mall. On Friday afternoon, the Stallworths and their 7-year-old daughter Carrington, dressed in a red-white-and-blue jumper and clutching an American flag, strolled along the Mall under a near-cloudless sky.

“When you see the monuments and the marble, you’re soaking that up, that sense of pride and hope,” Cedric Stallworth said. “Being here today reminds me that we’ve come so far — there’s cultural diversity, and people here can live in peace — and there’s still so far to go. We’re a young country that’s growing, and we all do our part.”

Steve Souvannasot, 49, traveled from Chicago with his wife and two sons on Friday morning to visit Washington for the first time. Souvannasot arrived in the United States when he was seven, after his family fled violence in Laos following the civil war, and said he wanted to bring his children to the capital to help them put their history and identities in context.

“I’m trying to teach my children about the freedom they have in America,” Souvannasot said. “We had to give up everything in Laos, all was lost. To see different ethnicities and diversity in Washington, the center of politics and culture and the law that gives people that freedom, I’m grateful.”

Angela and Sergio Lopez, immigrants from Venezuela and El Salvador respectively, and now living in Syracuse, bobbed their heads to Kenyan music emanating from a tent set up at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Friday as they walked along the Mall in matching American Flag T-shirts. Sergio Lopez, who served in the Air Force for five years, calls America his “adopted home.”

“We come from places where you can’t express your views without the government watching or getting arrested, but this is our way of life now,” Sergio Lopez said, gesturing to the monuments surrounding him. “Being able to vote, and not worry about what our views are. To us, being here represents freedom.”

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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