They've given the play-by-play of the Mayor's Christmas Parade. They're regulars at the Towson Chamber of Commerce's Feet on the Street, Friday outdoor concerts. They're known at HonFest. But neither Greg Carpenter, program director, nor Gina Crash, his co-host on Today's 101.9 FM Morning Show, has ever been a grand marshal.
Come July 4th, that will change. The CBS Radio station's disc jockeys are grand marshals of this year's Towson July Fourth Parade. Their official duties begin at 10:30 a.m. when, seated in the lead vehicle, a convertible, they kick off the parade.
"It's an amazing honor," said Carpenter, a Lutherville resident who has attended the Towson parade and, in the mid-2000s, even marched in it when his son was a member of Cub Scout Troop 528.
Crash loves parades, fireworks and the barbecue that traditionally follows. She and a cousin share a July 18 birthday, "so we always make a big deal of July 4th," said the Towson resident who is pondering what combination of red, white and blue to wear.
As much fun as being grand marshal sounds, it does come with responsibilities. They aren't onerous but, with upward of 60,000 people expected to line the parade route, they are part of the role.
"Grand marshals officially start a parade. They're the front car for the parade," said Nancy Hafford, Towson Chamber's executive director who, now that the chamber is running the parade for the second year, has become an expert on the subject.
Carpenter's and Crash's route to grand marshaldom began when Hafford called the radio station to ask if they were available. The station is a longtime booster of Towson, the chamber and its activities.
"101.9 is one of our biggest media supporters," she said. "They promote our concerts. They come out for our Winterfest tree lighting. They participate in the July Fourth parade."
Hal Martin, the radio station's marketing director, seconded Hafford. "We've promoted the parade [on air]. We have a vehicle in the parade. We have a team that walks in the parade, giving out flags and candy," he said.
Hafford is sure Carpenter and Crash are up to the role. She wouldn't have asked for them otherwise. And if not, she is prepared to teach them.
First comes the wave. "It's a little wave, a twist of the hand," said Hafford, the kind the British Royals have down pat. "We'll show them how to do it."
Next, because parade-goers will be on both sides of the route, the duo has to wave side-to-side although how often and for how long is their decision. Lastly, they "have to smile and sit up straight," said Hafford, although they are allowed to wear a hat. "We don't want them baking" in the convertible.
Carpenter comes to his radio career via a childhood love of local stations like B104 and personalities like Brian and O'Brien and Johnny Dark. A graduate of Loch Raven High School and a communications major at Towson University, he held jobs at stations in Baltimore; Lancaster, Pa.; and Baltimore again.
'I'm lucky to be working in my hometown," he said.
Crash is a Philadelphia native who grew up in the Washington, D.C.-northern Virginia area. A graduate of West Virginia University in communications and political science, she too had other radio station jobs before landing at 101.9 this past January.
"Radio people have a high passion for what they do," she said.
As for the Towson July Fourth Parade, both said they are looking forward to being grand marshals.
"It's like you are in charge of July 4th," said Carpenter.
"It's part of the job, to be out on the street" connecting with people, said Crash. "We become part of their family because they listen to us every day."