Even before Southampton's Fourth of July parade started, Sag Harbor Community Band members packed up their fragile, decades-old sheet music and their instruments.

A downpour that began at 8:30 a.m. turned normally crowded streets into a barren parade route at the 10 a.m. start time, and David Brandenburg, musical director of the 57-year-old band, worried the wind and rain would damage the cherished pieces.

"The band is not waterproof," he said.

Mother Nature rained on parades Friday, dousing many hopes for an all-day-and-night party and freeing the beaches for the brave. An eastward-moving cold front and northeasterly Hurricane Arthur kept the crowds away, along with their boats, coolers and other accoutrements of the Fourth of July. Celebrations were rescheduled, canceled or moved indoors.

"This is not how I expected the day," said 7-year-old Derek Gustavson of Seaford, who was visiting Old Bethpage Village Restoration with his parents and 5-year-old sister. "I expected the day to be more happy than this!"

The consolation prize is a weekend graced by mostly sunny skies, puffy white clouds and temperatures in the 80s for rescheduled events, the National Weather Service said.

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But Friday looked like a blustery fall day at Jones Beach, Long Beach, any beach. "This is how we won our independence -- with perseverance," Tony Stonier, 55, of Manhattan, said with his arms outstretched in the drizzle at Robert Moses State Park in Wantagh, where he had gone with friends.

Winds there were strong enough to rock cars.

Said, 'We're going anyway'

Lues Vargas of Queens and his 10 family members gave the weather an hour to behave. They wanted to barbecue on the beach, so while they waited for the rain to end, they played volleyball and danced to radio music.

"We had already planned to come out and it was a long drive, so we said, 'We're going anyway!' " said Vargas, 30.

When the hour was up, so were the Vargases, heading back to their cars.

At Old Bethpage Village Restoration park, musicians threw plastic over their Civil War-era military attire as they played marches under the cover of Noon Inn's front porch.

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Some visitors huddled in front, holding umbrellas, while others listened from an adjacent porch.

Despite two activity cancellations -- an old-time baseball game and folk dancing -- the Old Bethpage parade went on. Post-parade ceremonies moved inside.

Three generations of the Beneri family had planned a full day at the park, including the reading of the Declaration of Independence.

John and Christine Beneri of Levittown, along with three young grandchildren and their parents, decided to walk a bit anyway to show the children the park and return later, weather permitting.

If not, Christine Beneri said, "We'll go home, get dry clothes . . . maybe barbecue with our hoods on."

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Chris Pappas, 27, of Northport, ignored the weather and prepared his 39-foot Sea Ray for and afternoon ride.

"Nothing keeps me off the water," he said, getting ready to take the boat out. "A little rain isn't going to stop Fourth of July weekend."

Nearby, it was a ho-hum first hour of holiday work for Jay Benenson, 23, at the Woodbine Marina in Northport.

Only one person came to take a boat out.

"This is dead," Benenson said.

So were the sands of Long Beach, but Kimberly Fitch and Caitlin Conlon still put their beach towels to good use.

Headed home for movies

They walked to the Long Beach train station, covered in towels to shield themselves from the rain. They each spent $40 for a round-trip train ticket and diner meal before calling it quits.

Both had come from Manhattan, thinking they could "just beat Mother Nature."

"It was raining the minute we got off the train," Fitch said.

But the pair remained upbeat.

"We're talking about going home and putting on sweatpants and watching movies -- chick flicks," Fitch said.

The rain gave many Islanders the freedom to enjoy a mellow Independence Day.

Three Huntington residents sat under individual umbrellas, staring at crashing waves off the Robert Moses beach.

"What about this isn't normal?" said one of them, Tom Warrick, 52, there with his friend, John Kiernan, 52, and his friend's daughter, Maggie Kiernan, 20. "We love the sound of the water. We love the ocean. It's peaceful.

"No traffic. No charge. No trouble parking."