From the Bel Air Independence Day Committee:
The Bel Air Independence Day Committee, the non-profit, all-volunteer institution that has organized, staged and managed the traditional July 4th celebration in the Town of Bel Air since the mid 1980s, announces the full list of activities for July 4, 2016.
The activities include a flag-raising and flag ceremonies in four locations, the traditional pancake breakfast, and family-oriented daytime competitive events, culminating with the annual parade down Main Street in the late afternoon and a fireworks display over Rockfield Park at night.
The day-long celebration, one of the largest in central Maryland, attracts attendees and participants from Harford County, as well as from surrounding counties, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
“We’re still doing a lot of planning, but the full day schedule is now pretty much complete,” says Don Stewart, president of the Committee. “We encourage everyone to visit our Web Site or Facebook page and start planning their day in Bel Air on Monday, July 4.”
Daytime events take place at Bel Air High School (flag-raising; pancake breakfast), Rockfield Park (horseshoe pitching), Shamrock Park (family-oriented competitive events), Bel Air Elementary School (bicycle rodeo), and the Hays House (tours and historical music).
The day of celebration concludes with a mile-long parade on Main Street, starting at 6 p.m., and a fireworks display over Rockfield Park, starting at approximately 9:30 p.m.
Significant this year is the addition of two NEW family-oriented competitive events in Shamrock Park. At 9 a.m. there will be WATER BALLOON TOSS competition, wherein pairs of contestants attempt to toss a filled balloon back and forth, moving farther apart each time. The pair that succeeds in tossing its balloon the farthest without breaking it wins!
After the Balloon Toss, at 9:30 a.m. there will be a COSTUME CONTEST, including both “patriotic/historical” and “fantasy/creative” categories.
“We’re still working on the details of these competitions,” says Stewart, “including how to best use the Bandshell Stage, and how to divide up the competitors into age-divisions and the like. But we’re sure that they will be tons of fun for people of all ages, and we’re expecting everyone from children to oldsters, pets, group entries and more.”
The Water Balloon Toss and the Costume Contest take the place of the former frog and turtle events, which will be prohibited by new updates to the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources COMAR Regulations §§ 08.03.11.02 and .16. The updates were published in the Maryland Register on April 15, 2016, and will go into effect on June 20, 2016.
“Of course we will miss these events, which were a big part of our day for so long,” says Stewart. “But times change, and we have made many changes over the years. We think these new events will be just as much fun and may even attract more people.”
After the Shamrock Park Costume Contest come the traditional “Uncle Sam Says” and Watermelon Eating Competitions. “These have grown hugely in the past decade,” says Committee Vice-President Michael Blum, who has played “Uncle Sam” since 1991. “It used to be that I had to maneuver through about a dozen kids—now I have literally hundreds competing, some of whom are real ‘pros’ at the game.”
Meanwhile, at Rockfield Park, the annual Horseshoe Pitch Contest has also grown. “We’re now seeing competitors driving hours to get here,” says David Williams, who with Greg Cooper directs the event. “We have contestants from Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and all over Maryland — what was once a quickly-over exhibition is now an all-morning top-quality highly skilled competitive event!”
Each year, The Bel Air Independence Day Committee chooses a patriotic or locally-significant theme for the day; this year’s theme is HONORING OUR HOME-TOWN HEROES. “We want our parade participants to really consider our theme in decorating their entries or creating their floats,” says Blum, who is also the Parade Chairman. “In fact, the judges rule on entries according to how well they illustrate the theme.”
“The theme is important, too, in unifying everything we do, and helping us recognize the true heroes who are all around us,” says Stewart. “We all know how important the contributions made by our local heroes—firefighters, police, municipal workers, rangers, guardians of the peace, and more. As events this year have already demonstrated, some of those who protect us sacrifice even their own lives in the service of the greater good. It makes us proud to be a part of this society, and we owe it to our local heroes to celebrate the commitment they make and recognize the dangers they face.”
Also new in 2016 is the first-ever OVERALL PARADE SPONSORSHIP by BGE, in honor of its 200th Anniversary. “We are pleased to present the Bel Air Independence Day Parade, brought to you by BGE,” says Blum. “This sponsorship allows us to bring a higher quality level of parade to the citizens of Bel Air and the spectators who line the streets.”
As in previous years, the Committee has selected a MISS BEL AIR INDEPENDENCE DAY to serve as the official hostess of the Fourth of July events. This year’s Miss Bel Air is Carrianne Cicero, a native of Street, who was chosen through an interview process. An accomplished vocalist, she will sing the National Anthem at the flag-raising at Bel Air High School and at flag ceremonies in Rockfield Park, Shamrock Park and Bel Air Elementary School. Besides helping out at the competitive events, Miss Bel Air will also lead the parade.
The day of celebration concludes with a mile-long parade on Main Street, starting at 6 p.m., and a fireworks display over Rockfield Park, starting at approximately 9:30 p.m. As it did last year, the parade will start at Idlewild Street and South Main, and proceed up Main Street to the Historical Society building at North Main and Gordon Street.
“This route worked very well both for staging, display and dispersal in 2015,” says Blum, “and we are pleased to repeat it this year.”
The parade will again feature bands, performers, floats, horses, antiques, mobile and marching units, fire engines, military representatives, cars, trucks and motorcycles, costumed characters and special acrobats, and more. “We’re still receiving applications and working on the details,” says Blum, “But I can promise a very special, very moving tribute to our Hometown Heroes this year.”
The reviewing stand will again be located at the County Office Building, where Don Morrison will narrate the parade, and from where various VIPs will salute the participants.
Individuals, churches and organizations interested in applying to be in the parade should visit the Committee’s web site and apply on-line.
For maps, details, application forms, schedules, and more, visit http://belairjuly4.org.