From Don Stewart, president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee:
The Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. hosted a terrific family-oriented day this past 4th of July. We make most of our activities be an opportunity for families to go somewhere fun on the 4th of July. Given all of the families that I saw out there, I would say that we were successful in that effort.
I want to tell you a couple of stories from this past event. A few days ago I was picking up a sizable check from one of our band sponsors. As he handed it to my left hand, he grabbed my right hand firmly, looked me in the eye with conviction and said that he wanted to thank me for helping to make this event happen, how pleased he was to support it and that he wished me well on the 4th. The other story occurred during the fireworks at Rockfield Manor. While the fireworks were blazing away, two men were visibly excited about the show. One was filming it with his phone and the other was talking on his phone, eyes gleaming and was excitedly describing the show to whoever was on the line with him. Unable to find the words to describe what he was witnessing, he yelled “just listen” and held up the phone toward the exploding shells for his unseen friend to at least hear the show. These two stories become a little more interesting when I add that neither of them involves a native born American. One was born in Italy and the others in Jamaica.
We all learn to take things for granted. It serves us well to observe the reactions of those who aren’t there yet to help us take stock in what should be important to us.
Our theme for this year was “Land of the Free.” It is fairly easy to take freedom for granted. Sometimes, you need to see it through another person’s eyes to appreciate it. On the 4th, we celebrate our freedom from Lords and powerful tyrants who would have their way with us. The founders of this nation were keenly aware of the evils of such establishments and put their lives on the line to build us a better world. Every day, we struggle to maintain those freedoms from those who would take them away from us.
Our Committee, which runs the Bel Air Independence Day celebration along with hundreds of volunteers, believes that a community of people is improved by rolling up their collective sleeves and making an event of this nature happen. I would like to list at least some of these fine people as their efforts were considerable.
The event was kicked off at the magnificent facility of the Bel Air High School with the Flag Raising Ceremony performed by members of the American Legion Post # 39 with Robert Hudson as the bugler and Stephanie Meadowcroft (aka Miss Bel Air Independence Day) as the singer. It was enjoyed by dozens of people eagerly awaiting the next event. Lion Harold Boccia and the members and spouses of the Bel Air Lions Club took their motto “We Serve” to new heights as they served up a beautifully executed Blueberry Pancake Breakfast for about 2000 people at the Bel Air High School. Many patrons came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the warm welcome that the Lions Club provided. They were assisted by the BAHS football team and Boy Scout Troops 313 and 777. While people waited in line, entertainment was provided by the Upper Chesapeake Chapter of the Sweet Adelines. The enormously popular Horseshoe Pitching Contest was overseen by Greg Cooper and David Williams at Rockfield Park. The contestants, who are generally a very hearty and down to earth lot, expressed their sincere thanks to Greg and David for their efforts, as do I. Fun for the whole family was the Frog Jumping, Turtle Derby and Hamster Race, expertly officiated by Mary Dean, Paul Balsamo and their merry league of fellow helpers at Shamrock Park. This event has always been our most popular daytime activity which attracts hundreds of critters and their cheering owners. The Bel Air Police gave participating kids a fun and informative Bicycle Rodeo. They have done a great job with connecting with the youth in Bel Air. The Watermelon Eating Contest was both fun to participate in and entertaining to watch and was chaired by Joann Hathazi and Girl Scout Troop 155. These young ladies are truly wonderful and brought fun and freshness to the contest. The various activities at the Hays House (tours, patriotic costume contest and concert), were overseen by Richard and Ceil Fox. Everyone there enjoyed stepping into the past and learning more about our history in a fun and interactive way. Last, but not least, there are a lot of children growing up in Bel Air who will always remember Michael Blum as “Uncle Sam Says”. This gives Mike, aka the Parade Chairman, a chance to have fun with some of the kids who will be watching his parade in the evening.
The Evening activities, which include the Parade and Fireworks, are what the majority of the community comes to see. Michael Blum chaired the Parade Committee with enthusiasm and great talent. As a spectator, I know that you cannot even begin to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into organizing the parade. However, let me tell you that Michael, completely out of sight from the public eye, has brought the event to new heights with innovated approaches to administrating the event. He wants nothing more than to provide quality entertainment for everyone who comes to the parade.
Bill Smith was at the launch site at the fireworks and oversaw that first class event. We may not have a substantial “congregational site” for the fireworks like we did at the Bel Air High School (something that I really miss), but many people have told me that they have figured out good viewing locations. The trick is to get as close as possible to the launch site. Many thanks are due to Harford Mutual Insurance Company for sponsoring them this year. What would our community be like without good and responsible companies like them? If you have an opportunity, please thank them for their support.
No less effort was also expended by other “administrative” volunteers, such as Mary Dean and John Cubbage who coordinated the vendors, Janet Leedy who took care of the finances, Aaron Cahall who handled our press releases and Michael Blum who also designed and produced our 20,000 program booklets that were distributed around the community the week before the 4th.
All of these volunteers (and many others) gave us 110% and made this event happen.
The Bel Air Town Police, assisted by several Harford County sheriffs, provided overwhelming support and assistance. We also heavily relied on the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company Emergency Medical Services for all day coverage. Finally, I would like to express my deep admiration of the Town DPW workers. They are terrific. We would need another 20 volunteers to do what they do for the Committee. The Town of Bel Air deserves a hearty thank you from all of the people who enjoyed the Fourth of July festivities.
Donald Stewart, President
Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.