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Washington Monument Repairs Hailed

June 30, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The party for the 224th birthday of the United States begins a day earlier than usual with a celebration of the $10 million renovation of the Washington Monument on July 3.

But the monument will still be closed for repairs.

The much-admired blue-and-white scaffolding for the repairs has been taken down. One of the capital’s main tourist attractions, the monument normally draws more than a million visitors a year, with July 4 a peak day.

The National Park Service has promised a reopening July 31 but the monument will close again in December for another two months. A new cab will be installed for the elevator before the three-year job is complete.

At the ceremony on Monday, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will receive a replica of the monument’s aluminum tip from Tom Sands, regional senior vice president of Target Stores, which has donated $2.5 million and helped raise another $4 million for the renovations. They have included repairing damage to the structure from time and weather, improving the heating and air conditioning and replacing the observation windows.

The U.S. Army Band will play a new arrangement of the ``Washington Waltz,″ composed by Julia Maedel around the time of the monument’s dedication in 1885.

The usual Independence Day fireworks display on the National Mall has been extended to a full half hour instead of the usual 20 minutes, the National Park Service said.

Fifty people from 40 countries will take the oath of allegiance and become U.S. citizens at Freedom Park, in suburban Arlington, Va. In the afternoon Mark Mitchell, a historian and dealer in rare documents, will give a talk at the adjacent Newseum on how the media of the 1700s covered the writing and signing of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

In downtown Washington, the National Archives starts festivities at 10 a.m. with actors representing George Washington and other notables of the period moving among the crowd expected on its broad steps to explain their roles in history. Then comes a solemn reading of the Declaration of Independence and a performance by the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Fife and Drum Corps.

A short demonstration of uniformed British and colonial military maneuvers on Constitution Avenue will be followed by the traditional parade: floats, giant balloons and a marching band.

Inside the Archives Building there will be a changing of the guard every half hour from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the display of the original signed copy of the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Meanwhile the Smithsonian Institution’s annual folklife festival continues throughout the day on the Mall offering the music, crafts, cooking and customs of Tibet, the Rio Grande Valley and Washington D.C.

At 8 p.m., before the fireworks start, a variety show on the west lawn of the Capitol will include entertainer Ray Charles, flutist James Galway, Broadway singer Audra McDonald and pianist David Benoit.

To cap it all, Leonard Slatkin will direct the National Symphony Orchestra in Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s rousing ″1812 Overture.″ It was written not to celebrate the American victory in that war but Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, with echoes of booming cannon, the Marseillaise and the czarist Russian anthem.

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