Havre de Grace drops duck, welcomes 2014

The skies over Havre de Grace were joyously bright for the first minutes of 2014 as one fireworks after another went off over families gathered on the campus of Havre de Grace Middle School.

The families came from throughout Harford County for the city's annual Duck Drop and fireworks show.

A crowd gathered, despite temperatures in the 20s during the final hours of New Year's Eve, and people were treated to hot chocolate, snacks, music and dancing before the lighted duck was dropped from a 103-foot high Susquehanna Hose Company tower.

The duck, which has been dropped in Havre de Grace nearly every New Year's Eve since 1999, was covered in bright green lights for 2014, in honor of an event the Susquehanna Hose Company is hosting in March to benefit the St. Baldrick's Foundation in its fight against childhood cancer.

The duck has been lit in different colors in recent years, such as pink for breast cancer awareness, and red, white and blue in honor of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks and the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

Members of the audience were treated to several encores of the fireworks that were set off along with the duck dropping, and some were so bright that the upturned faces in the crowd could be seen clearly.

"They were amazing," Dina Gentry, of Edgewood, said. "I really liked the encore . . . the whole sky lit up."

Her 11-year-old son, Noah, was also enthralled with the fireworks, especially the loud ones with reports that reverberated across the school campus and off of surrounding buildings.

"I actually kind of like it when it's loud," Noah said. "I don't know why but I do."

Gentry, who also came with her husband and daughter, said she enjoyed the music and dancing that preceded the main event.

She said music was not available when she and her family attended the Duck Drop two years ago.

"It made families come out and dance," Gentry said. "They had "The Electric Slide" and dances people were familiar with, not just the music playing."

Kate Basford, of Aberdeen, came with her boyfriend, Travis Pierce, also of Aberdeen. She brought Pierce to his first Duck Drop.

"It's cool; it's unique" he said of the duck.

The duck, which hung beneath the number 2014 – each number was 8 feet tall – is designed to highlight Havre de Grace's connections to duck decoys, such as the Havre De Grace Decoy Museum and the annual Decoy & Wildlife Art Festival.

"I think it's cute," Basford said. "I like that it's green this year."

Basford took pictures of the fireworks with her smartphone as Pierce had his arm around her shoulders.

"Who doesn't like fireworks?" she said after the show.

The duck and the numbers are made by members of the Susquehanna Hose Company, who work with Havre de Grace community leaders and city officials to put on the celebration.

The duck is made from molded plastic and sits on an aluminum frame. The numbers are also made of a metal frame.

Ed Grainger, a member of the fire company and chairman of the Duck Drop committee, said it takes about an hour for a nine-member crew to set up the duck and the numbers.

He and Tom Phelan, another member of the fire company who has worked on the Duck Drop for about 13 years, noted hanging the duck and numbers from the tower truck lessens the time it takes to set up and take them down.

"We are up so quick and we tear down so fast," Grainger said.

Phelan "absolutely" expected the Duck Drop would continue.

"We have people here that have been dedicating themselves to this," he said. "This is their New Year's."

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