The Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc. hosted a terrific family-oriented day this past 4th of July. Most of our activities provide an opportunity for families to go somewhere fun on the 4th of July. Given all of the families that I saw out there, I would say that we were successful in that effort.
Our theme for this year was "Celebrating America's Volunteers!" Since the Bel Air 4th of July event is an all-volunteer effort, we understand first-hand what volunteering is about. We are not profit motivated. We are driven to perform various tasks and to do them exceptionally well. When someone volunteers, they are the best that they can be. They hope for a good and fruitful end of their day and the sense of goodwill which comes from being a part of a community.
Our committee, which runs the Bel Air Independence Day celebration along with hundreds of volunteers, believes that a community is improved by rolling up their collective sleeves and making an event of this nature happen. I would like to list at least some of these fine people as their efforts were considerable.
The event was kicked off at the magnificent facility of the Bel Air High School with the flag-raising ceremony performed by members of the American Legion Post 39 and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 with Robert Hudson as the bugler and Laura Patnaude (aka Miss Bel Air Independence Day) as the soloist. It was enjoyed by dozens of people eagerly awaiting the next event. Lion Harold Boccia and the members and spouses of the Bel Air Lions Club took their motto "We Serve" to new heights as they served up a beautifully executed Blueberry Pancake Breakfast for a record crowd of over 2,000 people at the Bel Air High School. Many patrons came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the warm welcome that the Lions Club provided. They were assisted by the Bel Air High School football team. While people waited in line, entertainment was provided by the Upper Chesapeake Chapter of the Sweet Adelines. The enormously popular Horseshoe Pitching Contest was overseen by Greg Cooper and David Williams at Rockfield Park. The contestants, who are generally a very hearty and down to earth lot, expressed their sincere thanks to Greg and David for their efforts, as do I. Fun for the whole family was the Frog Jumping and Turtle Derby, expertly officiated by the Bel Air Kiwanis and their merry league of fellow helpers at Shamrock Park. This event has always been our most popular daytime activity which attracts hundreds of critters and their cheering owners. The Bel Air Police gave participating kids a fun and informative Bicycle Rodeo. They have done a great job with connecting with the youth in Bel Air. The Watermelon Eating Contest was both fun to participate in and entertaining to watch and was chaired by Joann Hathazi and Girl Scout Troop 155. These young ladies are truly wonderful and brought fun and freshness to the contest. The various activities at the Hays House (tours, patriotic costume contest and concert), were overseen by Richard and Ceil Fox. Everyone there enjoyed stepping into the past and learning more about our history in a fun and interactive way. Last, but not least, there are a lot of children growing up in Bel Air who will always remember Michael Blum as "Uncle Sam Says." This gives Mike, aka the Parade Chairman, a chance to have fun with some of the kids who will be watching his parade in the evening.
The evening activities, which include the parade and fireworks, are what the majority of the community comes to see. Michael Blum chaired the Parade Committee with enthusiasm and great talent. As a spectator, I know that you cannot even begin to appreciate the amount of effort that goes into organizing the parade. However, let me tell you that Michael, completely out of sight from the public eye, has brought the parade to new heights with innovated approaches to administrating the event. He wants nothing more than to provide quality entertainment and to showcase the various organizations who want to participate. In many respects, the parade depends on the voluntary efforts of the participants. The spirited innovations of the voluntary participants are what provide that very special connection and which seasons the parade.
Bill Smith was at the launch site at the fireworks and oversaw that first class event. We may not have a substantial "congregational site" for the fireworks like we did at the Bel Air High School (something that I really miss), but many people have told me that they have figured out good viewing locations. The trick is to get as close as possible to the launch site without nearby trees. Many thanks are due to Harford Mutual Insurance Company for sponsoring them this year. What would our community be like without good and responsible companies like them? If you have an opportunity, please thank them for their support.
No less effort was also expended by other "administrative" volunteers, such as Mary Dean and John Cubbage who coordinated the vendors, Janet Leedy who took care of the finances, Aaron Cahall who handled our press releases and Michael Blum who maintains our website and also designed and produced our 20,000 program booklets that were distributed around the community the week before the 4th.
All of these volunteers (and many others) gave us 110 percent and made this event happen.
The Bel Air Town Police, assisted by several Harford County sheriffs, provided overwhelming support and assistance. We also heavily relied on the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company Emergency Medical Services for all day coverage. Finally, I would like to express my deep admiration of the Bel Air town DPW workers. They are terrific. We would need another 20 volunteers to do what they do for the committee. The Town of Bel Air deserves a hearty thank you from all of the people who enjoyed the Fourth of July festivities.
Donald Stewart, President
Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc.