Bel Air July 4 parade brings out the crowds and the patriotism

With scores of American flags, fanfare and plenty of floats, Bel Air's annual Independence Day Parade on Thursday evening was the highlight of another well-attended, daylong celebration of the country's birthday in grand style.

Thousands again lined the sidewalks of Main Street on a warm and humid summer afternoon to see the parade, which ran to about 1 1/2 hours.

The popular song of the day appeared to be "You're a Grand Old Flag," which a number of bands picked to play.

Besides the fire trucks, service vehicles, pageant winners and miniature ponies, Bel Air's parade included musical groups from as far away as Florida and a variety of baton twirlers, Irish dancers and bagpipe players to entertain the enthusiastic onlookers.

A pink limousine rolled by, the Ravens bus played "We Are the Champions" and the Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company piped in "This Land Is Your Land."

Bel Air businesses were as always on display. Buontempo Brothers Pizza had a walking pizza slice, while Jake's Wayback Burgers sported a googly-eyed burger on top of its car.

Politicians in the parade included state Dels. Donna Stifler, Wayne Norman and Glenn Glass and Sens. J.B. Jennings and Barry Glassman. Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane also made an appearance.

For many who attended, watching the Bel Air parade is a family tradition.

Carollee Baker, of Aberdeen, said she has been coming to the event with her family since 1985, when she moved to the area from Kansas.

"To me, it's just like a picture of Americana, what Americana should be," Baker said, adding her family has always attended together, as she pointed out a new baby who marks the start of a new generation coming to the parade.

Asked about coming to the event every year with family, Baker's brother, Jeff Cook of Philadelphia, said firmly: "It's tradition."

Cook said he likes the parade because people salute the flag when it goes by and show respect for the military.

"People appreciate the right things," Cook said. "You get all walks of life, from inner city Baltimore to the country."

Baker said the family even did a little patriotic ceremony of their own earlier in the day.

Nancy Deford, of Bel Air, was watching the parade with two grandchildren. She agreed that people have come to look forward to the event every year.

"It's just a tradition now," Deford said, adding that attending the parade is more fun with her grandchildren.

"I think it's terrific," she said of the event.

Denise Lozzi previously lived in Harford County for 24 years but had never seen the parade before. She moved back to the area and lives within walking distance of Main Street.

"When we bought a house in town, I thought, 'Well, we might as well go to the parade,'" Lozzi said.

"It stirs me to patriotism, to feel that lump in your throat," she continued. "I feel like I have missed something all these years."

Lozzi said she was moved by the theme of this year's parade, which focused on America's volunteers.

"You can see the volunteer theme," she said. "I think everyone did a great job. That's really coming across to me."

Lozzi pointed out a group of teenagers from Bel Air High School huddled on the sidewalk.

"They are really into it," she said of the parade.

After the marchers were finished, Route 22 stayed busy as people got ready to watch the fireworks at Rockfield Park at the end of the festive night.

The hilly lawns of places like The John Carroll School and St. Matthew Lutheran Church were filled with blankets, chairs and people as the sun went down.

On random stretches of the highway, people had also put out chairs to watch the show. Convenience stores and open tailgates were still filled with revelers. And the spirit of patriotism was still in the air as the first colors from the pyrotechnics filled the clear night sky.

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