After a week of constant downpours, the rain held off and the sun finally poked through the clouds for the masses of red, white and blue making their way down Hesperus Drive, in Columbia, in the name of tradition.
Local swim teams, bands and even unicyclists followed this year’s Grand Marshal, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, down the Longfellow July 4th Parade route that has brought the community together for 43 years now.
“The parade is our heartbeat, our soul,” said 58-year-old Heather D’Amore, who served as Harper’s Choice Village Board co-chair for two years and who won the Good Neighbor of the Year award in the late 90’s.
“No matter what happens in the world or in our individual lives, we make an effort to come back,” she said. D’Amore, who said she owns the oldest house in Longfellow, watched the parade from her front porch.
“It’s like a Norman Rockwell picture in motion. It’s as if the neighborhood got lost back in time, when neighbors were close and supported one another,” said D’Amore, whose daughter was one of several children to move back to the neighborhood as an adult. D’Amore said her daughter lives across the street with her two children.
Similarly, 67 –year-old Harding Wescott’s children and grandchildren joined him to celebrate. “It’s just a family tradition for us,” he said while holding his two-month old granddaughter.
Ulman, who rode in the back of a red convertible with his family, said he enjoyed the parade because he got to see familiar faces. “I love seeing the folks I grew up with,” he said.
The parade was directed by Barbara Russell, whose husband, Bob, ran the event before he passed away three years ago. In fact, on July 4 in 2010, Ulman named it “Bob Russell Day” in Howard County.
“We live in the greatest country on Earth,” said Russell. “We really have so much to celebrate.”
Following the parade, the neighborhood split into two teams, the Eliots Oaks Nuts and the Hesperus Wrecks, for the annual softball game at the Columbia Association field in Harper’s Choice.
Families also gathered along the streets of Howard County for the Allview, Lisbon and River Hill parades. As usual, the Precision Lawnchair Marching Dads, led by Chris Wertman, made a much-anticipated appearance at River Hill’s 14th Annual Independence Day Parade.
Wertman, 63, and his crew entertained spectators with their performances, which they describe as drill team routines using lawn chairs instead of guns. Dressed in patriotic boxer shorts, the group was hard to miss.
“We’re out here to show people our patriotism in a fun way,” said Wertman, whose wife, Barbara, has helped organize the parade for 14 years.
Brownie Troop 5917 also made a splash at the event with their float, which housed a pool. Troop Leader Danielle Lavis’ husband, Jeff, built the pool for his 7- year -old daughter, Taylor, and the rest of the girls who all attend Pointers Run Elementary School.
“We really wanted to outdo our float from last year,” said Jeff Lavis.
The girls cooled spectators off with squirt guns and threw candy for young ones. “We really believe in being a part of the community,” said Danielle Lavis.
In Allview, Sen. Allan Kittleman was able to reconnect with the community in which he was raised when he walked at the end of the parade.
Mike Tompkins, who has organized the parade since 2010, said the parade ran smoothly. “It wasn’t too hot, which was nice,” he said.
“It really was a joy for everyone to see how much the kids get into the spirit of waving a flag and wearing red, white and blue,” said Tompkins.