Towson's Fourth of July Parade should get off to a rousing start this year.
Four A-10 Warthogs of the Air National Guard will fly over Towson to kick off the parade on July 4 at 10:30 a.m. Then will come the marching bands, the community groups, the grand marshals and representatives of Towson University as the featured community, according to Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce.
The four jets of the 104th Fighter Squadron of the Air National Guard — also known as the Fighting Orioles — will fly over the parade route in one of two flyovers scheduled for the jets on the Fourth, according to Col Charles Kohler, spokesman for the 175th Wing of the ANG.
"It was a pleasure to get back involved and help them out," said Mike Murphy, of Lutherville, who filed all the paperwork to secure the jets' appearance. Murphy spent 33 years with the National Guard before retiring in 2004. He took on the project at the request of Hafford.
The A-10, officially known as Thunderbolt II, is a highly maneuverable aircraft capable of flying at a low airspeed and altitude, Murphy said. He said he had to contact the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the 175th Wing of the Air National Guard, located at Warfield ANG base at Martin State Airport.
Kohler said the jets have again been authorized to fly at patriotic events after several years of a moratorium because of budget cuts. "It's an opportunity for them to fly," he said, noting that fly-overs provide good training for pilots to plan and coordinate their flights. "That's important for the wartime mission," he said.
Towson University, celebrating its 150th anniversary, will bring a float and representatives of faculty, staff, students and their families will march alongside, according to Teresa Hardin, TU's assistant to the president for events and engagements. The marching band, the school mascot, Doc, and the football team in uniform will also be on hand. Sixty international students attending TU as part of a summer program will also march.
"We're stepping it up a notch this year as part of our 150th anniversary," she said, noting that the university has participated in past parades. "We like to celebrate the community here as well as the university's 150th."
The float, a replica of the university's historic Stephens Hall, will be making its second appearance. Built for last year's parade, it has been modified to mark the sesquicentennial, according to Hardin.
The university, which opened in 1866 in downtown Baltimore, as the Maryland State Normal School, has been located in Towson for 110 years. The anniversary celebrations began during commencement week, though most events will be held during the upcoming academic year, Hardin said.
In addition, the university is a major sponsor for this year's parade, which costs about $30,000 to stage each year, according to Hafford. "They're our huge sponsor for this year," she said. "They've really stepped up and pulled it out for us."
In keeping with the theme of honoring the men and women who have served this country, a chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will march along with representatives of the 9th and 10th Horse Cavalry of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Since this is the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the women who worked in the factories throughout wartime will also be remembered. The local Rosie the Riveter chapter will be represented by its president, Elsie Arnold, 93, a retired registered nurse who worked for two years at Glenn L. Martin before going to nursing school. "Most of us are in our late 80s or early 90s at this point," she said, noting that many have daughters who have joined Rosie the Riveter chapters. They are called "Rosebuds."
Rosie the Riveters will ride in two cars. Arnold, a Towson resident, will ride in a 1940s-era car whose paint job pays tribute to the women who worked in the factories. Another "Rosie," Loretta Simon, will ride in the second car with her husband, Charles. They are from New Freedom, Pa.
There will be music aplenty, including regular favorites. The Ravens Marching Band, the New Jersey based Fusion Drum and Bugle Corps and the Phoenix Percussion Band, based in Campus Hill, Pa., will be among the bands performing. The Jim Stewart Jazz Trio will perform before the parade, at 9 am. on the main stage on Washington Avenue, Hafford added.
Also appearing will be local politicians, including Gov. Larry Hogan, antique fire trucks from the Fire Museum of Maryland and dancers of the O'Connor School of Irish Dance.