From Bel Air Fourth of July Parade Director Michael Blum:
July 5, 2015
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 2015 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day parade.
Today, we believe that science and art and hard work can control all things — well, the one thing we can’t yet control is the weather. I worked on some of our July 4 daytime events, in pouring rain, and that was pretty depressing — especially when I remembered that 2014’s July 4 weather had been perhaps the most beautiful in decades. I’ll be frank — as the public knows, we parade in whatever conditions there are, and we’ve endured some soggy days in the past. BUT NOT ON JULY 4, 2015! The rain stopped. The streets and sidewalks dried off. And the people came! The crowd was large, happy, well-behaved, enthusiastic and very supportive of the parade and the individual parade units. The entire parade and the response of the spectators to it showed greater Bel Air to be the patriotic, fun and accessible family-oriented community it truly is. Many of the bands who had played one, two, three or FOUR other parades before arriving in Bel Air commented to me that “BEL AIR WAS THE BEST!” I believe that they were 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. Of course, 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.
For instance, for the past three years we have limited the length of the parade (time-wise) to about 90 minutes, to make it easier for the Town of Bel Air Department of Public Works and Police Department to regroup and redeploy for the fireworks, in daylight. It’s not easy for a small town to accommodate the influx of tens of thousands of people, all arriving at basically the same time, looking for parking, and seating, and food, and services. Think of the stress this puts on the roads, sidewalks, parks and parking lots! That Bel Air, Maryland, pulls it off almost as a matter of course speaks volumes about the professionalism and talents of those public servants who are charged with maintaining order. So, we end our parade while it is still light and bright, and we hope that the extra time thus given is useful to all and helps lessen the “holiday anxiety” that we all sometimes feel!
It is also surely significant that our Committee has received such support from our community for the parade, beginning with our premier sponsor, Harford Mutual Insurance Company. Other major sponsors were Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant; The Festival at Bel Air Shopping Center; HAR-CO Credit Union; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association; Jones Junction; Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland; Plaza Ford; PNC Bank; and TD Bank.
Sponsoring organizations overall include the Bel Air Auxiliary Police Unit, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., the Town of Bel Air, and the Lions Club of Bel Air. The Committee also received cash contributions from dozens of individuals and businesses, as listed in our program and on our web site (http://www.belairjuly4.org).
I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air Commissioners, led by Chairman Robert Reier and Vice-Chair Susan Burdette, and Commissioners Ed Hopkins, Patrick Richards and Robert Preston, Town Administrator Jesse Bane, and Town Director of Administration Michael Krantz. I also wish to thank Deputy Chief Rick Peschek and Sergeant Robert Pfaff, the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Public Works personnel, led by Chuck Arnold and especially
Freddie Murillo, for their help. Bel Air Reckord Armory Manager Dave Gigliotti made some of our out-of-town bands very welcome for the night of July 4.
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 and Town Police who helped us at our most busy STAGING corner — MacPhail Road and S. Main Street — where EVERY parade unit and all the buses were checked in and routed to the staging area. Without any prior knowledge of our systems, these hard-working law enforcement personnel “got it” — they understood our system and helped us. Even though we had three parade marshals at that intersection (including me!), we couldn’t have done it without them, and I only wish I had had time to record their names so I could thank them personally.
We had wonderful bands in our parade, led by seven of our local high schools. Their hard-working local band directors, who deserve high marks for turning their bands out in such great numbers and with such great spirit, in the midst of summer vacation! So, thanks to Mary Lynn Twentey of C. Milton Wright High School, Richard Hauf of Havre de Grace High School, Ronald Burke of Patterson Mill High School, Craig Harvey of Fallston High School, John Wojciechowski of Edgewood High School, Robert L. Johnston of Joppatowne High School, and Marc Bolden of the John Carroll School.
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 kept shining right 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 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, our Premier Sponsor, which allowed us to use its parking lot to link up bands and buses 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 William E. King, IV, and Command Sergeant Major Harold E. Dunn, IV, and their families, walked in the parade, and whose Color Guard won FIRST PLACE for Color Guards in the parade.
Without all this support, we could not have held the parade.
In 2014, an Aegis newspaper editorial commented that “Commitment to volunteer work for the benefit of the community as a whole is vital to the fabric of American society.” The editorial was right — 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, to our marvelous parade marshals: Steve Pugh, Aaron Cahall, Jason Klarman, Dave Andrews, Alex Krowzow, David Williams, Jack Deal, Ron Eastridge, Greg Cooper, Dee Strickland, Bill Smith, Lisa Williams, Annette Blum, Rick Cozby, Jo Cozby, Lindsey Stevenson, Miranda Meisel, Chris Wilcox, Nathan Wilcox, Amelia Wilcox, John Cubbage, Vincent Nohe, Katie Nohe, Steven Quinn and others related to Boy Scout Troop 777 of Bel Air, which troop has long been a fabulous supporter of this event. I was touched that members of the troop even came up to me at the parade offering to help.
Next, thanks to those who worked at other parts of the parade: The Politz and Williams families did a wonderful job decorating the reviewing stand, notwithstanding that it was under water for most of the day! But they prevailed — great job, guys! Communications were ably handled by Debbie Stewart, who was also our indefatigable shuttle driver, keeping us hydrated and fed during staging and parading time. Don Morrison did his usual wonderful job narrating the parade, assisted by Brent Cozby at the Reviewing Stand and Alex Krowzow at the Parade Start Point, who deftly and intelligently handled input and correction of the reviewing stand narration, reflecting actual parade units as they deployed. The Fountain Green Swim Club did a great job as our parade sponsor banner carriers. Our Parade Judges (who choose to remain anonymous) did fine work evaluating and ranking the various units in categories for performance and appearance awards and prizes (the complete list of parade prizes and awards is posted on our web site and is also sent to all local publlications, both print and e-news for publication).
If by any chance I’ve left out someone who worked with us on the parade, please accept my apologies, and my personal thanks, for your volunteerism and commitment.
My vote for the “unsung hero” award this year goes to AARON CAHALL, who came up with and administered our totally new arrangement for linking up bands with the buses at the end of the parade, and who not only marshaled the staging entrance point at MacPhail and S. Main, but then ran down the route to marshal the parade end point at Gordon and N. Main! Aaron began volunteering with the Committee while a teenager, and now, over 15 years later, is a Board Member and our PR Coordinator — not to mention one of our most important Parade Marshals!
And finally, I’d like to again 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. It was Don’s suggestion that I consider REVERSING the direction that the Bel Air Parade had taken for at least 35 years, and we all think that this change was fruitful, better for the units (especially the bands), easier to coordinate, and therefore ultimately a big part of the parade’s success. Don’s 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 over 30 years, and his hard work, sensitivity, organization, dedication and flexibility are without peer.
As I said earlier in this letter, the Committee has a vision of what the parade should be. I’ve been privileged to have been the Parade Chairman now for over 23 years — but I know that 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.
Michael I . Blum
Vice President, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.