From Michael Blum, Parade Chairman, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.:
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., I wish to thank the greater Bel Air and Harford County community for its support of and response to the 2018 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day Parade last Wednesday.
As I’ve said over the years — and I have been the Bel Air July 4th Parade Chairman for 26 consecutive parades, now — we here in Bel Air are very much “in the Parade Business,” come what may. Heat? Wind? Rain? So what? This year we certainly had no rain (a pleasant change after three wet years!) — but we did have tremendous heat and humidity; fortunately for us, the big storms up in Pennsylvania never got here, and spread clouds that covered us and actually cooled us off somewhat, right as the parade started.
In any event, we have a special Town, and special citizens. We hope we delivered a memorable parade, one worthy of our great country and community.
The Bel Air July 4th Parade shows the greater Bel Air area to be a patriotic, fun and accessible family-oriented community. Many of our bands has already played in one, two, three or even FIVE other parades before arriving in Bel Air — but I hear from them, time and time again, that “BEL AIR IS THE BEST!” I believe that they are right. BEL AIR IS THE BEST!
Many people do not realize that the Bel Air July 4th Parade, as part of the overall Independence Day celebrations in Bel Air, is funded and run by an independent not-for-profit organization, the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., which has a vision of what the parade should be, and tries, to the best of its ability, to bring this vision to reality. The Committee relies on the contributions of individuals, businesses and municipalities — contributions of time, effort, and funds. We interact with Town government and law enforcement, and with the Town Department of Public Works. The Committee also takes into account the needs of the town itself, and the sheer practicality and logistics inherent in mounting such an event.
It is also surely significant that our Committee has received such support from our general community for the parade, beginning with our Premier Sponsor and fireworks sponsor, Jones Junction. Thanks, Jones Junction!
I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air Commissioners, led by its Chairperson, Mayor Susan U. Burdette, and Vice Chair Commissioner Brendan P. Hopkins, and also including Philip L. Einhorn and Amy Chmielewski. Thanks also go to Town Administrator L. Jesse Bane and Town Director of Human Resources and Administration Michael Krantz. I also wish to thank Chief of Police Charles Moore, Sergeant Robert Pfaff, the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Public Works personnel, led by Stephen Klein and Chuck Arnold, and especially including Dan Feveryear, Brandon Vocke, Steve Hodges, Wayne Smith, Freddie Murillo, Harry Marr, Warren Weidner and Buddy Haight.
Before the parade, flags were given out to all children in the crowd along the parade route by volunteers from the Bel Air Lions Club, under the supervision of Don Stewart. What a marvelous thing this is — to go down the parade route and see thousands and thousands of American flags being waved! Thank you, Bel Air Lions!
In addition to the Lions, sponsoring organizations overall include the Bel Air Auxiliary Police Unit, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., and the Town of Bel Air. The Committee also received cash contributions from dozens of individuals and businesses, as listed in our program, 20,000 copies of which were distributed throughout the area in the days before the event.
There were many members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff’s Department who helped us mount the parade — directing traffic, shuttling buses, helping lead the horses through the back streets, sealing off roads, etc. I was completely impressed especially by the Sheriff’s Deputies, Town Police and Bel Air Volunteer Fire Personnel, marshaled by Mike Fields, who helped us at our most busy STAGING corner — E. MacPhail Road and S. Main Street — where EVERY parade unit and all the buses were checked in and routed to the staging area. We couldn’t have done it without them.
We had wonderful bands in our parade, led the eleven Harford County high schools. In 26 years, I believe this is the first time we had EVERY Harford high school represented: 10 public and 1 independent! Their hard-working band directors deserve high marks for turning their bands out in such great numbers and with such great spirit, in the midst of summer vacation! So, I give great thanks to Aberdeen High School Band Director Kaitlyn Wittman, Bel Air High School Band Director Samantha Romero, C. Milton Wright High School Band Director Dr. Joel Frisch, Edgewood High School Band Director Thomas Vosburg, Fallston High School Band Director Craig Harvey, Harford Technical High School Band Director Andrew Rising, Havre de Grace High School Band Director Richard Hauf, John Carroll School Band Director Julie Parrish, Joppatowne High School Band Director Joshua Baker, North Harford High School Band Director John Wojciechowski, and Patterson Mill High School Band Director Ron Burke.
To the many businesses, churches, clubs, individuals and organizations who participated in the parade — you truly exemplify what it means to be public-spirited, patriotic and community-minded. The decorated floats, cars and marching units were many and colorful; your patience and spirit of fun shone brightly through the evening, all the way until the end of the parade.
I want to also thank our elected public officials for their cooperation and spirited participation.
We all send our grateful appreciation to the residents and businesses on Idlewild, Emmorton Road and South Main Street, who kindly allowed us to marshal the parade in front of and all around them. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Harford Mutual Insurance Company and Klein’s ShopRite of North Main Street, which allowed us to use their parking lots to link up performers and buses and families after the parade. We also received tremendous support from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command (CBRNE) of the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, whose commander, Brigadier General James Bonner, along with his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sergeant Major Kenneth Graham, walked in the parade with the 20th CBRNE Command Honor Guard.
Without all this support, we could not have held the parade.
It takes hours and hours of commitment and hard work from many, many volunteers to make a parade happen, and I need to send many, many thanks to our many, many volunteers. First, I thank our marvelous parade marshals, many of whom come from or are related to Boy Scout Troops 313 and 777 of Bel Air, which have for long been major supporters of this event: marshals Aaron Cahall, Lisa Williams, Alex Krowzow, Dave Andrews, Chandra Krantz, Greg Cooper, Ron Eastridge, Doug Rudd, Derek Rudd, Mike Fields of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Bill Smith, Lisa Williams, Chris Van de Verg, Vasilios Van de Verg, Rick Grant, Al Visconti, Alex Visconti, Meredith Fellman, Jack Schenk, Annette Blum, Theodore Van de Verg, Sandy Wheeler, Jake Wheeler, Vincent Nohe, Katie Quinn, Steve Quinn, Phil McCutcheon, JP Garvin, Dean Hansen, Tyler Hansen and some extra volunteers from Troop 777. Our drinks-and-food shuttle was ably provided by Debby Stewart. John Hayes coordinated commercial vendors during the event.
Kim Politz, Andy Politz, Mary Ann Williams and Perry Thompson were the Reviewing Stand Marshals, and our peerless narrator Don Morrison was aided by “text script confirmers” Perry Thompson and Alex Krowzow. The Politz and Williams families did a wonderful job decorating the reviewing stand.
Our six judges, who wish to remain anonymous, did a thorough job reviewing all 150-odd parade units for consistency with the theme, style, enthusiasm and more. Their judgments and awards I have posted on the Bel Air Independence Day Committee’s web site, at http://belairjuly4.org, on our Facebook page, and I sent them to the media last week.
Many of our bands in the parade were sponsored by area businesses. Banners in the parade announcing these sponsors were carried by volunteers from the North Harford Neptunes Swim Team and the Harford Football Club, all under the direction of Hope Yamagata. Banner carriers were Sara Oldenburg, Abby Rickard, Lance Oldenburg, Chard Melur, Eleanor Melur, Cody Galbreath, Shyenne Greene, Jen Galbreath, Emily Cassidy, James Cassidy, Rachel Smith, Tracy Rudd, Haley Rudd, Joseph Morrison, Alice Morrison, Shannon Morrison, Bella Rice, Hilary Poling, Ashley Shelton, Bill Shelton, Marissa Price, Kaitlyn Hayden, Cristique Duvall, Jenna Gordner, Maddie Walters, Larry Ventorelli, Alayna McCubbin, Kate Oldenburg, Jessica Fiero, Emily Fiero, Grace Fiero, Deise Sealy, Chris Sealy, Ama Sealy, Logan Sealy, Jackie Cassidy, Natalie Tredway, Matt Tredway, Chris Tredway, Shawn Foltz, Kimberly Foltz, Alex Fallon, Beth Fannin, Jessica Fannin and Sarah Fannin. Thanks to coaches Lance Oldenburg, Jackie Cassidy, Tracy Rudd, James Morrison, Jen Rice, Ken Poling, Bill Shelton, Larry Venturelli, Tim Fallon and Kimberly Poltz for delivering these hard-working young persons! Please accept my apologies if any of the above names are spelled incorrectly.
Band sponsors included Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs, sponsor of the White Sabers Drum & Bugle Corps; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant, sponsor of the Patterson Mill High School Band; Carsins Run at Eva Mar, sponsor of The John Carroll School Band; HAR-CO Credit Union, sponsor of The Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association, sponsor of the Harford Highlanders Pipe Band; Jones Junction, sponsor of the C. Milton Wright High School Band; Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland, sponsor of The Bel Air Community Band; Plaza Ford, sponsor of the Uptown String Band; PNC Bank, sponsor of the Bel Air High School Band; Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association, sponsor of the Harford Technical High School Band; and TD Bank, sponsor of the Havre de Grace High School Band.
If by any chance I’ve left out someone who worked with us on the parade, or contributed to it, please accept my apologies, and my personal thanks, for your volunteerism and commitment.
Our Parade Judges (who choose to remain anonymous) evaluated and ranked the various units in categories for performance and appearance awards and prizes. All units were judged as to how well they adhered to or displayed the parade’s theme: “A Salute to American Heroes!” Particular praise goes to the Daughters, Sons and Children of the American Revolution’s float, which won the “best float” award, and which truly showed how to take a theme and make it real.
My vote for the “unsung hero” award this year has to be split in thirds: first, to HOPE YAMAGATA, who took over the critical job of coordinating the banners that preceded the sponsored bands. Great job, Hope! Second, to CHANDRA KRANTZ, who took over marshaling the Equestrian Unit — and we had the largest and best Equestrian Unit in at least 15 years! And finally, to LISA WILLIAMS, who has been one of our key marshals ever since she was a young teenager, and who ended her string by effortlessly handling unit dispersal, unit staging, parade deployment and other duties, and that after helping run the Horseshoe Pitch event all day! Oh — and Lisa and her family assembled all the marshal materials, too, 4 days before the event! And she made it all look easy. Lisa, we congratulate you on so many years of volunteerism, and we will miss you and the entire Williams family, when, next July 4, you will be graduating with a degree in Veterinary Science from the University of Glasgow in Scotland!
And finally, I’d like to again — again, as strongly and as enthusiastically as possible — personally thank the man who might just be the chief volunteer of Bel Air — Don Stewart, President of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. As I mentioned above, Don arranged and supervised the flag giveaway, and his thoughtful and caring support, his creativity in coming up with new ideas and interesting additions to a function that he’s been working on for well over 30 years, and his hard work, sensitivity, organization, dedication and flexibility are without peer. Without the visionary ideals of our President, Don Stewart, nothing of value or quality would happen in Bel Air on July 4.
Thanks again, Don, for everything. It was a happy day for our community when Don and Debby Stewart chose to live here.
And now — it’s time to start working on 2019!
Michael I . Blum
Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.