Fourth of July in N. Baltimore is for fire trucks and cupcakes

The Fourth of July will be a busy holiday for Melinda Frame. She will be in Mount Washington and Cape Cod the same day.

Every July 4, Frame is Mount Washington's queen of cupcakes, collecting as many as 1,000 home-baked or store-bought cupcakes from residents to bring to the annual Spirit of Mount Washington Independence post-parade party at Springwell Senior Living, a retirement community on West Rogers Avenue.

Frame, the cupcake bearer since 2010 and a co-organizer of the celebration, relishes her role so much that last week she was in a quandary. She was looking forward to a long-planned vacation with her husband, Jordan, their children, Dani, 9, and Will, 7, and their extended family in Massachusetts. But she was feeling guilty about deserting her desserts in Mount Washington.

Now, she will interrupt her vacation to fly to Baltimore on July 3, in time to set up her patriotically decorated cupcakes — from vegan, gluten-free and kosher to decadent gourmet chocolate with butter cream and peanuts — on folding tables on Springwell's massive lawn the next morning. That afternoon, she will jump back on a jet to rejoin her family in Cape Cod in time for fireworks in nearby Falmouth, Mass.

"It's a little nuts," said Frame, 45. But she missed last year's 14th annual Mount Washington parade and celebration to be with her family in Delaware.

"This is the 15th," she said. "I want to do it this year."

Frame's fellow organizers, known as "divas," say that beyond being the queen of cupcakes, Frame represents a younger generation of community leaders, who will help keep the parade going in the years to come.

Joan Wisner-Carlson said she and Missy Mack and Caroline Tufts, the original organizers, are getting older and their children are grown. They recruited Frame when former cupcake queen Melina Roberts moved to Maine.

"We're nearing retirement age for parade divas," Wisner-Carlson said.

Enter Frame, who moved to Mount Washington in 1999 and just finished a term as treasurer of the PTO at Mount Washington School, where her children go.

She enjoys walking in the parade and helping out afterward.

"We pitch in where we can," she said.

But she most enjoys forming a horseshoe of long tables with cupcakes spread out and her standing in the center.

"We have some talented bakers in the neighborhood," she said. "It's really festive when [the cupcakes are] all laid out."

Fired up in Roland Park

Unlike Frame in Mount Washington, Lt. Joseph Steele won't have to travel far at all to watch Roland Park's parade on Roland Avenue. He works at the nearby fire station and lives in the Parkland Apartments, 89 steps away, he said.

The firehouse is an essential part of Roland Park's parade. Engine 44 leads the parade down Roland Avenue from the Roland Park library to Roland Park Presbyterian Church, where firefighters spray hundreds of happy children with their hoses, while families enjoy free red, white and blue Popsicles and bottles of water.

Steele, 53, a third-generation firefighter in his family, will be off duty that day, but plans to go to the parade. He said many of the station's personnel live locally and watch the parade, too.

"Our families are on the side, waving the flags," Steele said.

And the three flags mounted on Engine 44 — two small ones on the front and a larger one on the back — come from Steele's apartment.

"They're my flags," he said.

The fire station is proud to be part of Roland Park's biggest single event of the year, said Stephen Kowalewski, 54, captain of the station since 2002.

"We like go give back to the community," Kowalewski said. "We're basically here for them."

If you go

The Roland Park parade begins Friday at 10 a.m., on the front steps of the Roland Park Library, 5108 Roland Ave., and ends at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, 4801 Roland Ave. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other elected officials are expected to be on hand, and State Del. Samuel "Sandy" Rosenberg is expected to read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence before the parade begins.

"It is the same as previous years, but always a nice tradition," said Chris McSherry, president of the Roland Park Civic League.

The Spirit of Mount Washington Independence Parade begins and ends at Springwell Senior Living, 2211 W. Rogers Ave., also starting at 10 a.m., with welcoming remarks by master of ceremonies Cliff Mitchell and the Posting of the Color Guard, as well as a bagpipe player. Food and fun follow at 11:15 a.m. at Springwell, and the celebration will end around 12:30 p.m. — by which time Frame, the cupcake queen, will already be gone.

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