Arbutus' Soap Box Derby, held each year on the Fourth of July, is an event that not only allows kids to race their homemade mobiles, but also brings a sense of community. (Lauren Loricchio/Baltimore Sun Media Group video)

The threat of rain that hovered over the area in the morning had dissipated by the time the annual Fourth of July Parade through Arbutus was to begin Friday.

"This was the best," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, one of many politicians in the parade.

He was referring to the weather, which had been gray and threatening for his stops in Dundalk and Towson but had turned sunny and breezy on the third of his four parade appearances throughout the county.

But he could have been talking about the parade itself, had he asked any of the hundreds who lined Oregon and Carville avenues and East Drive for the community's traditional summer celebration.

For 90 minutes, the main street through Arbutus was filled with the sights and sounds of marching bands and drum corps from New Jersey, New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, as well as floats, pom squads and politicians from the area.

Many had staked out their places in shaded areas along the route to cheer for their favorite sports team, pom squad or church float.

Others stood or sat in the bright sunlight with some taking advantage of the free bottles of chilled water that were being passed out along the way.

T-shirts and other attire featured American flags and patriotic slogans or simply sent a message of pride in red, white and blue.

"It's interesting, recognizing the displays of patriotism in each of the communities," said Kamenetz, who was scheduled to take part in the Catonsville parade later in the afternoon.

He said he usually walks the route every year in Arbutus, but opted to ride this year.

"That's some car," he said, after exiting from the 1956 Chevy convertible that was among a host of classic cars in the parade. "I had to ride in it."

At the very front of the parade was Engine 351 of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department with 15-year veteran George Tyrrell at the wheel.

Lined up to follow the engine down the street were 16 other pieces of equipment from the Arbutus, Violetville and Elkridge volunteer departments as well as the Halethorpe career station. Among them was the latest addition to the Arbutus department, an all-terrain vehicle that could be used to answer calls for help at the nearby Patapsco Valley State Park or at stadiums such as the one on the nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, campus.

But Tyrrell, an Arbutus native, was thinking more about what could be ahead of him as he drove the huge machine down the street, horns and sirens sounding and lights flashing.

"Seeing all the little kids' faces light up," he said was on his mind in the final minutes before he hit the siren and the parade began.

He also thinks about what could happen, if a little one focuses on something across the street and not the huge red and white engine coming down the street.

"You gotta keep your speed down and watch out for little kids running across," said Tyrrell, the father of two now ages 26 and 22. "My foot is always on the brake."

The end of the parade was not the end of the day for Tyrrell, who works at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He said he will be meeting his kids and enjoying the fireworks at Catonsville High School later in the evening.

Family is a special part of the holiday for him, especially since his father served for 25 years in the U.S. Navy.