I grew up in Great Falls, VA about 15-18 miles west of DC along the Potomac River. The Forth is a big deal in DC and something all 'kids' looked forward to. As I remember it there was a pretty laid out regime for everyone between 17-21yrs old.
Basically you'd go to Ocean City, MD a day or two before the forth then head back into city for an all day & evening bash on the monument mall. There was a live concert (usually The Beach Boys) followed by fireworks.
This was pre 9-11 so the city would really open up for it and made friendly accommodations for the 500,000-700,000 people that would migrate in for the party. The cops were laid back then and most people were pretty chill. Being discreet enough you could even bring a keg of beer in there with you without a problem.
It was a good and special time. Innocent and pure. I can clearly see the sunburned and semi-inebriated smiles on the effusive faces of friends I thought would be in my life always. Images, cooling off in the reflection pool with 'Help me Rhonda' boosting a carefree atmosphere of certainly and promise.
I look back at those times with a grateful spirit to have been there and shared this with friends and other happy and content Americans. I don't expect we'll ever see this particular element of national celebration and fun again. It was a moment in time that can't be repeated, not in my lifetime anyway. I'm hopeful there will be cool and fascinating new times and experiences ahead for this incredible and complex country but those were days and times we won't ever see again. Sad but true.
Peace and roll strong.