Ray Nevin, of Bel Air, tosses his horse shoe to the peg as he competes in the early rounds of Wednesday's Horse Shoe pitching contest at Rockfield Park, part of the Bel Air July Fourth morning events. (MATT BUTTON AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing / July 5, 2012)

Very warm weather couldn't keep hundreds of people from watching and participating in Bel Air's many Fourth of July events at Shamrock Park Wednesday.

Thankfully, threats of thunderstorms held off, humidity stayed relatively low and there were plenty of trees for families to roll out beach blankets and enjoy a snowball during the Independence Day festivities.

Continuing a long-standing tradition in Bel Air, children brought pet hamsters and recently-caught turtles and frogs to compete in that morning's races in the park.

Music played over speakers to get the crowd pumped and soon after 9 a.m., hamsters in plastic balls were placed in three large circles on the gravel and raced as fast as they could to exit the marked circle.


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Well, at least some did.

A few stubborn hamsters refused to move inside their balls, even after encouragement from the crowd and some gentle nudging from Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane.

During the second heat, one hamster rolled near to the circle's edge only to turn around and roll back to the center.

The kids in the crowd were even more fascinated with the box turtles, many of which were in boxes with a small amount of water, waiting for their moment to shine in the box turtle race.

Lance Miller, of Bel Air, caught his turtle, Big Boy, a week ago in preparation of the race.

While it was his first year participating, he and his kids come every year to watch.

After the race, Miller said he would release Big Boy back into the woods near his home.

Big Boy's chances to win were good.

"He's quick," Miller said, but he had one thing working against him: Big Boy didn't get along with the ladies.

"He's mean around the girl turtles," Miller said. "He chases after the girls."

Unfortunately, Big Boy didn't make it to the finals.

Unlike the hamsters, the box turtles were rather quick and darted to the outside of the marked circle in the gravel pit. Each race only lasted a few seconds.

The non-box turtle category fared the same - turtles were released and in the blink of an eye, the water creatures "ran" as fast as they could to the finish line.

Amy and Bill Parker were among those waiting for the frog jumping contest.

The couple from Bel Air caught their pair of toads, specifically for the race, Tuesday night near a pond behind the John Carroll School.

"The kids are old enough to race them now," the proud mother said. "But we go to all the festivities."