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Arbutus 4th of July parade is a family affair

Organizing the Arbutus 4th of July parade is a tradition for the Kendrick family.

Despite announcing his plan to retire from organizing the event last year, longtime Arbutus resident George Kendrick, 91, is back and leading the effort this year with the help of his wife of 60 years, Naamah, their children and grandchildren.

"I like doing it because it's something that I can do with my grandfather," said Chad Kendrick, 26. "I know this means so much to him, and I'll do anything to help."

This is the 17th parade Kendrick has organized. He took over when Nancy and Sarah Ehrlich passed the task on to him 17 years ago, he said.

"The community participation in the parade has increased 20-fold since I first started organizing it, as far as I'm concerned," Kendrick said. "There was a time when you could fire a cannon down in the middle of Arbutus and you would never hear a soul, but since then, we have quite a crowd on the sidelines."

Last year, Kendrick announced plans to retire from the volunteer position, due to his declining eyesight, and planned to hand the parade organizing duties over to Richard Greene, owner of Arbutus Autopainting and Body Works.

However, Greene was busy running his Leeds Avenue business and couldn't find the time to organize the effort, Kendrick said.

"He just wasn't going to have enough time, so rather than not having a parade, we decided to do it," Kendrick said. "We're not quitters, we love our community and that's what we do it for."

"The business got really busy this year," Greene said. "The whole, entire family is really involved and they have enormous shoes to fill."

There is a lot to learn when it comes to organizing the patriotic event, and he'll gradually be learning the ropes from Kendrick, Greene said.

"Next year, I will be helping with the bands and organizing the entertainment," Greene said. "[Kendrick] will take care of the Spring Fling and the 10K race because of the amount of fundraising involved."

This year, the Kendricks are being helped by their daughters, Valerie Stocksdale and Pam Schwartz, as well as their son, Ross Kendrick, his wife, Terry Kendrick, and their two sons, Chad and Brandon, 22. Their grandson Jeff Kendrick, 42, has also pitched in.

Schwartz, who lives 110 miles away in Delaware, has been helping her parents from afar.

"It's difficult to help out simply because of the distance," Schwartz said.

Still, she enjoys doing her part to assist her family with an event that has become "family tradition", she said.

"My dad has taught us since we were little kids to be involved in the community," Schwartz said. "I like that it brings the people out and they can see the parade right in their hometown."

Organizing the event involves hours of fundraising, organizing bands and entertainment, making phone calls and passing out fliers door-to-door in the community, the couple said.

Each year, hundreds gather to watch entertainers, civic groups, cheerleaders and politicians march down East Drive. The parade begins at 12:30 p.m. at Tom Day Boulevard and ends at the Save-a-Lot parking lot at the end of East Drive, Kendrick said.

But, it's not just a parade.

The event begins early in the morning, kicking off with the 32-year-old Firecracker 10K race that begins at 8 a.m.

"With the 10K race, it's the greatest community spirit there is," Kendrick said, sitting in a comfy armchair in the living room of his Arbutus home.

The race is sponsored by the Arbutus Parks and Recreation Council and the Chesapeake Federal Savings Bank with a course that starts and finishes at Arbutus Middle School on Shelbourne Road.

The recreation council asks residents to turn their sprinklers on and leave their garden hoses out for runners to "keep cool."

"There are people manning stations, and they probably give out a thousand cups of water," Kendrick said.

Other events include a flag-raising ceremony held by the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post 109 on East Drive at 10:15 a.m. There are also children's games and a soap box derby that begin at 9 a.m. on Elm Road and Oakland Road, Kendrick said.

Kendrick, known as the unofficial "mayor" of Arbutus, is recognized around town for his commitment to the community and efforts to grow recreation programs in the area.

"George is the heart and soul of Arbutus," said Terry Nolan, president of the Arbutus Business and Professional Association. "He and his wife, Naamah, have been instrumental in bringing about positive change in Arbutus for the past 70 years."

Clem Kaikis, owner of Paul's Restaurant in downtown Arbutus, said, "We wish that every community had a guy like George Kendrick. He's instrumental in bringing the community together."

Kaikis said the parade is an important event for the area because "it enables all of the citizens to see a piece of Americana."

"At his age, it takes a lot of determination to organize something like this," Kaikis said. "I commend him in his effort. He's always trying to improve the community in some way."

Kendrick credited his wife for her assistance in putting on the event each year.

"We work together. She does all the writing and letters and is raising all kinds of hell when I make a mistake," Kendrick said. "She tells it like it is, and she keeps on going. She deserves more credit than she's willing to accept."

The Kendrick family has spent hours raising $23,000 for the event, making phone calls, writing newsletters and doing other tasks to prepare for the holiday.

Greene will see that the event goes off without a hitch on the 4th by ensuring those in the parade are lined up and ready to go, Kendrick said.

"We feel someone else should be leading the parade this year," Naamah Kendrick said. "His [her husband's] vision is going and we think it's better if he stays with us this time."

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Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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