From Donald Stewart, President, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.:
The Bel Air Independence Day Committee hosted a terrific family-oriented day for the community this past 4th of July. We deliberately orient most of our activities to give families somewhere fun to go to 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.
The theme of this year’s day-long event was “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue.” The concept of cheering for your nation includes, in my opinion, the desire to selflessly serve your community. The 4th of July events that we have produced over the years have always intended to celebrate those things that UNITE us as a people. A day like last Monday stands out as an example of how a few volunteers can come together and serve their community by hosting an annual celebration like no other that I know of. This event resides in the collective consciousness of tens of thousands of people who have joined us over the past 47 years.
Our Committee, which runs the Bel Air Independence Day celebration along with hundreds of volunteers, believes that a community is improved by rolling up their 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 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 Boy Scout Troop 313. They are a really great Troop and have helped the Lions in a number of activities. While people waited in line, entertainment was provided by the Upper Chesapeake Chapter of the Sweet Adelines. Greg Cooper and David Williams oversaw the enormously popular Horseshoe Pitching Contest 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 Toni Meares, 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, a.k.a. the Parade Chairman, a chance to have fun with some of the kids who will be watching his parade in the evening.
Who says volunteering isn’t any fun?
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. A solid core group of marshals, including members of Boy Scout Troops 777, 4513 and 313, helped with the staging of the parade which Michael oversees. As a spectator, I know that you cannot appreciate the effort that goes into organizing the parade, but let me tell you that Michael has brought the event to new heights and wants nothing more than to provide quality entertainment for everyone. If you got a flag to wave before the Parade started, you can thank M&T Bank for being the sponsor and Boy Scout Troop 564 and the Bel Air High School Football and Cheerleading teams for passing them out. The sponsor banners were overseen by Dave Williams and were carried by the Fountain Green Swim Team.
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 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 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.