MOUNT VERNON, Va. - George Washington never had air conditioning, but he knew how to keep cool: a mansion with lots of windows elevated on the banks of a wide, rolling river and lots of ice cream, maybe with a little brandy.
It is a little like the old days without electricity today, as the nation's capital region celebrates Independence Day the better part of a week into a widespread blackout that left millions of residents sweltering in 90-plus degree heat without air conditioning. Utilities have slowly been restoring service knocked out by a freak storm Friday from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic, and at least 26 people have died in the storm or its aftermath.
At George Washington's Mount Vernon estate, one of the most popular Fourth of July attractions was a demonstration of 18th-century ice cream making, one of Washington's favorite desserts. Historical interpreters Gail Cassidy and Anette Ahrens showed the crowds how cocoa beans were roasted and ground into a paste for chocolate ice cream, made using ice hauled up in massive blocks from the Potomac River and stored underground to last as long into the summer as possible.
Sarah Lenkay and her roommates, who lost power in Columbus Friday evening, didn't have power back until around midnight Wednesday. They weren't too excited about the holiday, because the last few days have been so miserable.
"I'm just enjoying the comfort of my home right now, and cleaning and getting things in order," she said. "So I'm not really doing much. It feels great."