Despite gloomy skies and cool temperatures, swatches of sand at Jones Beach started disappearing just after noon Saturday, covered up by umbrellas, coolers and Independence Day holidayers not quite willing to take off their outerwear.

"Too bad it's not a nice day, otherwise we'd be at the water's edge," said Pam Sullivan, 53, of Norwalk, Connecticut.

The clouds and chance of rain kept Long Island's main state parks from being filled to capacity. But there were "light to moderate crowds" in the afternoon, which were expected to grow for fireworks.

"Jones Beach and Robert Moses had extremely large crowds . . . [Friday] due to the fantastic weather; today, it's just the opposite," said George Gorman, deputy regional director for Long Island for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The mood was carefree.

Sullivan and husband Tim, 60, checked out the craft fair and food stands off the beach's boardwalk. He recommended the gyros: "It's always good when someone else cooks it."

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Evelyn Alcontin, 55, a nurse from Queens, and Mike Taitt, 55, a physician from Manhattan, hadn't seen each other for a year and were committed to staying for the fireworks and celebrating their reunion.

"We brought food until 8 at night," Alcontin said.

At Sunken Meadow State Park, lifeguard Capt. Ken Bohman said Independence Day is their busiest day of the year but due to overcast weather, they had "dodged a bullet."

"We had plans to close the beach" to late arrivals, he said. "But that won't be necessary."

Most people did not want to brave the water because it was too cold and instead set up lawn chairs, stereos and grills on every patch of grass available around the park. Soccer, volleyball, kites and hammocks tied between trees provided the activity or restful inactivity.

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For his first time at Sunken Meadow, Jesus Alvarez of Brooklyn fished along the beach while his wife and kids relaxed on the sand.

He moved to the United States seven years ago from the Dominican Republic, and while he misses his home country, he said, he appreciates the value of Independence Day.

"A lot of people fought for the U.S.," Alvarez said. "It's a very important holiday."

With Ellen Yan