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Small demonstration among revelers at Bel Air Christmas parade

The Christmas celebration began Sunday afternoon with a concert on Courtland Street and concluded with the traditional bonfire and caroling at Shamrock Park, but not before Santa and Mrs. Claus rolled down Main Street.

Shamrock Coffee had a line almost out the door just before the parade began as attendees stocked up on cups of coffee or hot chocolate. Balconies on Main Street, like that of Sean Bolan's, were also filled with people trying to get a better view of the festivities.

The crowd watched marching bands, Girl Scouts disguised as "elves" and colorful floats bring out the holiday spirit on a somewhat gray, though not too cold, day.

Bel Air Police showed off their new black cars, and groups such as Toys For Tots and Hoppin' Hawks entertained.

A woman dressed as a tree walked on stilts, surrounded by people dressed as presents riding unicycles. Meanwhile, a group of tap dancers clicked their heels on a float as "Jingle Bell Rock" played.

Miniature ponies made their usual appearance, while companies such as J.L. Lancaster had floats with colorful displays atop haystacks.

A small group of demonstrators supporting a 16-year-old accused of sexual assault were among the hundreds of residents who lined the sidewalks of Bel Air's Main Street for the town's annual Christmas parade Sunday afternoon.

They wore T-shirts reading "Free Alex Lori" and waved signs in front of the Circuit Courthouse, in support of Alessandro Lori, of Bel Air, who has been charged as an adult with allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a party.

Bel Air's Kelly Johnson, a parent of another boy, said the group wants to bring attention to what some believe is Lori being

"wrongfully accused" and the victim is lying.

"He has a lot of supporters backing him," Johnson said. Patricia Lori, Lori's 20-year-old sister, also of Bel Air, said her brother wanted to change the world and would have been the first to help the girl, not hurt her.

"He is just one of those really good kids," Patricia said, as Johnson repeated a sign being waved behind her: "Lies Ruin Lives."

A police officer stood near the protesters, but the parade went off without a hitch, with throngs of excited residents watching Bel Air's annual celebration.

The parade again brought out a lot of new faces, many of whom were celebrating, not protesting..

Joellyn Rzepiennik, of Bel Air, said she came for the first time to see her grandchildren take part in the parade with the Boys & Girls Club.

"We wanted to support them and also cheered for the Terps," she said, adding she greatly enjoyed the event.

"It was wonderful," she said, calling the horses and corporate sponsorship nice.

"This is what Christmas is all about," she said.

Her granddaughter, Caroline Phelps, 11, was also attending for the first time.

"I liked my cousins and I liked the horses," Caroline added.

Brook and Alex Necker, of Bel Air, said they couldn't make it last year because it conflicted with nap time for their children, Xander, 3, and Adeline, 1 1/2.

They said they "really enjoyed" the event this time and Brook Necker said Xander liked seeing Santa.

"Everything was good," Alex Necker said. "It was more crowded than we had expected."

Trish Heidenreich, Bel Air's economic development director, said it seemed to go smoothly once again.

"I am very happy about it because our main worry is always the weather," Heidenreich said.

Although the day wasn't get as warm as she expected, Heidenreich said she felt confident about the event as the crowd started arriving.

"Overall, we are very, very pleased," she said. "It's a great way to kick off the holiday fun, for all the holidays."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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