One of the principles on which America was founded is the individual's right to choose, and area Fourth of July offerings bolster that inalienable right with an array of options.
If you're willing to drive around a bit next week — say, north to Oregon Ridge, east to Catonsville, and south to Laurel — there are enough all-American activities before, during and after the official holiday on Wednesday to ramp up your patriotism and keep you entertained in Howard County and the general vicinity.
And that's not counting the big bashes — and big crowds — at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and on the National Mall in Washington.
It wouldn't be the Fourth in Columbia without fireworks at Lake Kittamaqundi, a task the county took over in 2008 when the local Kiwanis Club announced it no longer had the budget or manpower to light up the skies after 20 years of leading the charge. Anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 people attend the lakefront festivities, estimated Phil Bryan, superintendent of recreation activities.
As the county recreation and parks department prepares for its fifth annual display, the character of the July 4th Festival and Celebration remains intact; only the acts taking the stages vary from year to year.
The rain date is July 5, but applies only to the $34,500 pyrotechnics show, Bryan said. Entertainers and vendors will not be rescheduled should inclement weather force a postponement.
The family-friendly agenda, which gets underway at 5 p.m., is skewed heavily toward kids, with the Blue Sky Puppet Show, songs and rhymes from The Kinderman, and magic and comedy from Wes Holly. The 10-and-under set will again be treated for free to Stars and Stripes Carnival Games. For adults, there's The Igniters, a five-member band performing classic, pop and modern rock at 7:30 p.m.
At round 9:20 p.m., County Executive Ken Ulman is expected to address the crowd and start the countdown for the fireworks, which is set to music and lasts about 20 minutes, Bryan said.
Little Patuxent Parkway will be closed between Sterrett Place and Broken Land Parkway at about 6:30 p.m., according to police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn. She also said stopping or parking to view the fireworks is not permitted along Route 29, Broken Land Parkway or Little Patuxent Parkway.
Something for everyone
Here's a roundup of other Fourth of July events — concerts, parades and fireworks — taking place in and around the county:
There are several community parades to watch or join on the morning and afternoon of July 4, all open to the public.
•The Allview Area Civic Association welcomes anyone interested in a "very small, kid-focused parade" to join them in decorating bikes, cars or whatever at 10 a.m. at Atholton Park on Donleigh Drive, says Mike Tompkins. Judging takes place at 11:15 a.m. and awards such as "Best Dressed" and "Best Bike" are presented.
At 11:45 a.m. the anticipated crowd of a few hundred joins together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This year, 9-year-old Susanna Hoffman, daughter of AACA president Matt Hoffman, will sing the National Anthem.
After lining up in casual formation, the parade begins at noon along a route that is kept fairly short "to avoid kids having to go up and down too many hills," said Tompkins.
"If you want to come to a kid-friendly parade, this is the one," said Tompkins, who added that he believes so much in the all-American aspect of the event that he organizes it even though his own children are grown. "The kids really enjoy it."
•River Hill will bring back its "ever-popular Lawn Chair Marching Dads," said Susan Smith, village manager. There is also a new entry with a horse and mule from Deer Track Farm in Highland in this year's parade, which kicks off at 9 a.m. on July 4 at Great Star Drive, near old Guilford Road, and lasts about two hours.
Scouts, swim teams, a costumed dance group, and members of the 5th district fire station and the American Legion Post 300 will all turn out, Smith said.
"We're pretty low-key, though some people do set up chairs to stake out a spot along the parade route," she said.
• The Longfellow Parade, which bills itself as "the oldest continuously operating parade in Howard County," will kick off its 42nd year at 10 a.m., though participants should line up at 9:30 a.m. at Longfellow Elementary School. Everyone is invited to take part in or observe the parade of floats, bikes, motorcycles and cars.
"It's very informal and a lot of fun. You get to see people you may not have seen in a while," said organizer Barbara Russell. A fire engine from the Banneker station always kicks off the parade, which is held rain or shine.
At 9:50 a.m. there's a short ceremony with local Cub Scouts leading the crowd of 600 to 1,000 in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Good Neighbor Award, which is always a surprise, is announced and the winner rides in the parade in a convertible, Russell said.
Afterward, the annual softball game between the Hesperus Wrecks and the Eliot's Oak Nuts takes place and players aged 16 and older are encouraged to take part.
• Catonsville will host its annual parade July 4 at 3 p.m. with the theme, "Remembering the War of 1812." The mile-long route starts at Montrose Avenue and heads along Frederick Road, ending at Bloomsbury Avenue.
Before that event there will be a Decorated Bike Contest at 9:30 a.m. at Catonsville High School, which is where the fireworks display takes place at dusk. In between, a Family Fun Fest will be held at 6:30 p.m. with music by School of Rock, a teen band. Rain date is July 7.
• Maple Lawn will hold a street festival July 7 in the commercial district from 5 to 9 p.m., ending with fireworks. The public is invited.
• Laurel celebrates Independence Day on July 7 this year, and starts the day off with a parade at 11 a.m. Participants will begin lining up at 9:30 a.m. at 6th and Montgomery streets. Antique cars will converge at Stanley Place and Montgomery Street. This year's grand marshals will be women from the local American Rosie the Riveter Association chapter.
New this year will be a hot-dog-eating contest at 2 p.m., said Kay Harrison, event chairperson. City Council members and Mayor Craig Moe will judge. Participants will be limited to 12 hotdogs, consumed in the fastest time.
"This is Laurel's equivalent of the Macy's parade," said Harrison. "We attract between 50,000 and 100,000 people, so it's a pretty big deal."
Live entertainment will take place from 5 to 8 p.m., and the fireworks display will start at the lake around 9:15 p.m.
• The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform its Star-Spangled Spectacular July 3 and 4 at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. "The 1812 Overture" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" top the list of crowd-pleasing musical pieces to be performed. There will also be an "Oh, Say Can You Sing" singing contest, with the winner performing the National Anthem. The evening will culminate in a fireworks display.
• The Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster will host an Old-Fashioned July 4th from noon through the fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Performers include the Elderly Brothers, Carroll County Cloggers, Uncle Sam on stilts, and Monkey Man with Django the Monkey. The Kiwanis Club will collect a $5 per car fee starting at 5 p.m.