Chairs on Frederick Road

Lines of empty chairs began showing up on Frederick Road last week as fans marked their viewing sports for the annual Fourth of July Parade in Catonsville. (Staff photo by Brian Krista / June 24, 2014)

While other Baltimore suburbanites may look at Catonsville's Fourth of July celebration and parade as corny and anachronistic, the folks who faithfully line the parade route from Montrose to Bloomsbury avenues every Independence Day don't give a hoot what others think about their annual red, white and blue extravaganza.

Since its inception in 1947, Catonsville residents have made the parade a big part of their lives during the summer, a throwback to simpler times that never goes out of style. 

Although those who have been attending the event for years don't necessarily have a better idea of which spot along the route is best for their viewing pleasure, there's still an advantage from years of faithful attendance. But positioningis merely a matter of personal preference. No matter where fans find their seats along the route, it comes down to being able to soak in the patriotic, small-town atmosphere.

Craig Witzke took care of his spot permanently seven years ago by buying land across from the Catonsville Library on Frederick Road.

That said, like many in the community who join hands to make sure the 68-year-old event will continue to thrive, Witzke adds bleachers to the plot for the parade.

"Originally, it was so my grandmother and her friends would have a place to watch the parade," said the new owner of the Candlelight Funeral Home by Craig Witzke. "They would come all dressed up, so the people in the parade thought they were the judges and would stop right there. We had a lot of fun with that."

Again this year, Witzke and fellow members of the Catonsville Men's Civic Association sold raffle tickets for the winner to host his/her own viewing party on the Fourth, complete with seating. The effort raised $1,000 for the group.

"It's a fun fundraiser for a great event," said the Mount St. Joseph grad, who noted that he has either been in, or watched, the parade as long as he can remember.

As far as Jeff Hinton is concerned, you can take a man out of Catonsville, but you can't take Catonsville out of a man.

The Carroll County resident can usually be found among the parade route on the Fourth, "somewhere in the middle, between the library and Newburg (Avenue)."

And, typically, the 1983 Catonsville High grad, after leaving his Sykesville house in time to be in Catonsville by noon in order to avoid traffic, walks with his family toward the parade route from his buddy Witzke's house.

What he sees is "an awesome sight. It's like a Norman Rockwell painting. It's Americana. It's exciting each and every time I see it."

Being a Corvette fan, Hinton said he savors seeing the vintage sports cars in the parade.

He even used to show off his car in the parade, a two-door pink 1966 Cadillac that measured 22 feet from the front bumper to a chrome strip bisecting the taillights, making it longer than his wife's four-door Escalade by more than 3 feet.

Well before his car-owning days, Hinton said he took a particular path to the parade that still reverberates in his memory.

"I used to walk from Kent Avenue up Ingleside Avenue," he said on his journey as a youth.

Coldwell Banker real estate agent Kirby Spencer confessed she was not born in Catonsville, although she has lived in her adopted hometown for 25 years.

And her vantage point these days is not quite the same as it used to be, when she watched it from her ex-husband's company on the second floor of what is now Atwater's bakery, at 813 Frederick Rd.

Before that, in her early days at Coldwell Banker, she and her business colleagues employed a spirit of "community camaraderie" while making floats for the parade.

For the upcoming event, however, she will don a staff T-shirt reserved for marshals and to make sure crowds along the parade route stay off the street.