As she twirled in her red, white and blue flouncy skirt and sparkly sneakers Monday at Roland Park's Fourth of July parade, 8-year-old Juliette Gaal took her own small steps toward greater independence.
Juliette and her family moved from Los Angeles to Baltimore just last week. She didn't know anyone yet in her new city, and it was so … different.
In Los Angeles, she and her neighbors watched parades. They didn't march in them. In Los Angeles, Juliette learned to turn off the tap water the moment she wet her toothbrush. In Baltimore, a firetruck parked in the middle of Roland Avenue and sprayed delirious children for long minutes with water from the hoses.
But just when Juliette was feeling most shy, 7-year-old Eli McBride rode up on his scooter.
"Hi," Eli said, and smiled. His cheeks were stained with the juice of the red, white and blue Popsicle he'd enjoyed moments before.
Juliette likes rocket Popsicles. They have them back home in California.
Eli said he will be attending Roland Park Elementary School in the fall.
"That's where I'm going, too," Juliette said — and for a moment, her big green eyes sparkled as brightly as any fireworks.
Baltimoreans celebrated the 240th anniversary of the nation's birth Monday by participating in parades and holding cookouts. They caught up with neighbors and old friends, and some, like Juliette, made new ones.
Veterans in spotless uniforms with knife-edge pleats on their trousers marched down Bosley Avenue in Towson's parade. Preschoolers on Big Wheels twined with red, white and blue streamers barreled down Roland Avenue blocks ahead of their slower-moving parents.
Every few seconds, someone in Baltimore checked the forecast. Though the threat of rain and thunderstorms was disrupting some Monday night fireworks, inclement weather held off for most of the daytime events.
The rain forced Annapolis to cancel its evening parade and hold its breath for the fireworks, while Baltimore plunged ahead for its Inner Harbor show, hoping for a break in the weather.
As he has every year for the past 16 years, Del. Samuel "Sandy" Rosenberg stood on the steps of Roland Park's library and read the Declaration of Independence to about 300 neighborhood residents.
After he finished with the final words, "… we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor," the crowd yelled "Huzzah!"
As many times as the Baltimore Democrat has read those words, he still is moved by them. And he could tell he wasn't alone.
"Everyone was quiet," Rosenberg said after the ceremony. "They really listened."
Towson's parade began with the thunderous roar of Maryland National Guard jets flying over the heads of about 35,000 people. But not even they could drown out the bagpipes.
"We've been practicing since January," said Mark Richards, retired assistant chief of the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, and pipe major for the Fire Brigade Pipes & Drums of Greater Baltimore. "I just love seeing people's reactions. I've always loved bagpipe music."
In the crowd, 10-year-old Joelle Field and her friends danced and sang along to Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A."
Technically, the song's title doesn't really pertain to Joelle, who was born in Guatemala and came to the U.S. to live when she was 5 months old. But Joelle, said her mother, Cathy Field, is an "American citizen and very proud of it."