In her younger days, Tracey Pyser often believed the fireworks at The Reisterstown Festival were being shot off to celebrate her Sept. 11 birthday.
She frequently attended the festival, which usually takes place around her big day. Pyser loved the celebration and seeing some friends and members of the community.
Pyser, who is about to celebrate her 22nd birthday and who recently graduated from college, will return to The Reisterstown Festival for the first time in four years when its 31st edition takes place Sept. 9 and 10 at Hannah More Park.
"There's kind of a little bit of everything there," said Pyser, who works for the Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia. "I've missed four years, but I'll gladly be going back."
Festival chairwoman Sherri Brogan said a wide variety of events is being offered at this year's two-day community get-together, including the traditional parade down Main Street on Saturday at 9 a.m. to kick off festivities. Booth committee chairman Wayne Caplan said the parade will feature three marching bands and about 50 vehicles.
One new parade touch this fall will be a flyover by a Blackhawk helicopter at around 10 a.m., Brogan added. The helicopter then will land on one of Hannah More Park's baseball fields.
After the pilot — Jeffrey Schutter, a member of the Army — lands, he will chat with members of the public.
"We think that we're going to give people [something] they've never had before in getting to talk to the pilot of a Blackhawk helicopter," Brogran said. "The pilot will be there to answer questions, and people can come close and see the helicopter Saturday."
That's the challenge for the festival staff after 30 years — to come up with activities that will make people return. So far, they've done a good job of that.
The festival is a program of the nonprofit Reisterstown Recreation Council (RRC), which, with the help of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks, runs a variety of recreational and entertainment programs in the Reisterstown area.
The festival itself is free, and Brogan and Caplan said organizers estimate the number of visitors at 8,000 to 10,000 annually. With the strong community focus, planners spend several months readying the event.
Organizers had been meeting monthly since January on preparations, Caplan said. In August, though, they started getting together weekly.
The festival's slogan is "Where Summer Lasts a Week Longer," and Caplan and Brogan both said the idea is to extend the season that people get to relax.
"It's the right time of year, and we try really hard to have as many different activities as we can," Caplan said. "We want to attract the 2-year-olds and the 72-year-olds."
Among the festival features are an eating area, vendors with a range of products for sale and a Family Fun section. An entertainer named Eric Energy will do a "slime show," and there will be a Rocket Reba Science Spectacular for kids.
In the Family Fun area, there will plenty of music accompanied by singing and dancing, and many different animals on display.
A number of bands will be performing throughout the festival. Brogan said organizers are trying to bring in musical acts of all genres.
The wide range of activities adds to the festival's popularity, organizers said.
"I think it's very community-oriented," Brogan said. "It's a good way to socialize. We offer a lot of free things, and I think it's one of those events where there's a ton of free activity where you can see your neighbors and have some fun."
The festival takes place rain or shine. Last year, the weather was sunny and 98 degrees.
Caplan said that with set up on Thursday, the weekend amounts to 35 hours of work. But that doesn't deter staff.
"We know that's going to happen," he said.
For Pyser, one activity that she looks forward to are the fireworks, scheduled to go off at about 8:45 p.m. Saturday. In a way, it's a tribute to her birthday.
"I'll be looking for them again," she said with a laugh.
If you go
What: The Reisterstown Festival, a nonprofit event celebrating Reisterstown and adjacent communities
Where: Hannah More Park
When: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 9 and 10. Festivities get underway with a parade at 9 a.m. Saturday
Activities: Include live music, dancing, food, vendors, children's entertainment