Joanne Weant’s favorite holiday is the Fourth of July, and as the manager of the Carroll County Farm Museum, she gets to preside over the county’s largest fireworks celebration of the holiday.
“It’s partnership with the Kiwanis [Club], and it’s something we do to celebrate patriotism and America and living in Carroll County and the community,” she said. “I am not clear how long it has been going on, but I would say at least a few decades.”
On this July 4, which falls on a Thursday, the Farm Museum will open its gates at 3 p.m. to visitors who want to grab a spot for the fireworks display that evening — the sky is slated to light up at about 9:30 p.m.
“People who have attended for a long time like to come in and find their spot and claim their spot. We have people who have sat in the same spot for years and years and years,” Weant said. “So we open at 3 p.m. and since we are open, we also have activities because it’s a great opportunity to showcase the museum and people need something to do until the fireworks.”
People can enjoy live music from the band Park Avenue, food vendors (or their own packed picnic, though no outside alcohol is allowed), Farm Museum activities and an inflatable bounce-house attraction for children ($5 to bounce all day).
“We added the rain date after we had to cancel a few years ago. We never had to cancel before,” Weant said. The call to go with the rain date or stick to the Fourth will be made by noon on July 4, she said, and if the event moves to the rain date it will be fireworks only.
The Farm Museum has seen between 5,000 and 6,000 people for the fireworks display every year in recent years, according to Weant, and she noted local law enforcement do an excellent job of clearing traffic quickly after the event is over, to the extent that she’s made it home by 11 p.m. when the fireworks end at 10 p.m.
To aid in that outflow of traffic, a number of surrounding streets will be closed to all traffic beginning at 8:30 p.m., until law enforcement reopens them after traffic from the Farm Museum has passed.
Hook Road from Md. 32 to the entrance to Westminster High School
Smith Avenue from Md. 32 to Gist Road
But while the fireworks display and celebration at the Farm Museum might be the oldest and largest in the county, the newcomer Mount Airy Fireworks event appears to be catching up.
The event, now in its seventh year, will be held on July 3, at the Mount Airy fire company carnival grounds, at 1008 Twin Arch Road. Gates open at 4 p.m., and there will be live music from 5 p.m. — along with cornhole and patriotic face-painting — until the fireworks after dark.
“We didn’t have numbers the first year but we guesstimate about 1,000 people show up,” said Chris Coleman, owner of Mount Airy Eye Care and one of the founders of the event. “They counted about 5,000, 6000 people last year.”
“We were just chit-chatting about how Mount Airy did not have a fireworks celebration,” Coleman said. “We have kids, so we thought, instead of going to Frederick or Westminster to see the fireworks, we should do this ourselves.”
The two reached out to fireworks companies who promptly informed them they were booked for July 4 years in advance — but that July 3 was open.
“We got such good feedback from the folks and the town saying, this is a great idea, we can still do our normal stuff,” Coleman said. “So it stayed.”
Allowing people to keep their other longstanding July 4 traditions — including going up to the Farm Museum — has been an part of the event’s success, according to Coleman, who said it was always meant to have a fun, small-town feel.
“Halfway through the mayor will get on stage with some elected officials and say hi,” he said. “The Boy Scouts will do their color guard with the Pledge of Allegiance.”
The event is funded by donations from local businesses, and is not a for-profit — or even nonprofit — fundraising affair, according to Coleman.
“It was meant to be a thank you to the town. Ben and I have done well, and we have invested ourselves into our businesses in the town,” he said. “We just want to keep this as a feel-good backyard party.”
For those still looking for more, there has also evolved another Mount Airy Fourth of July ritual, the raising of a giant American flag on a crane at the carnival grounds from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on July 2.
“Digging & Rigging, they have volunteered their time and effort and the flag. It’s a big flag,” Coleman said. “It sort of organically became this event, people started to show up for the raising of the flag. We decided to organize it into more of an event, and this is our second year doing that.”
For those in northern Carroll County, the Manchester fire company carnival will also hold fireworks on July 4, with a rain date of July 6; the carnival parade will be held July 2.
Wherever people celebrate the Fourth of July or catch a fireworks show, there’s a chance to catch a glimpse of why Weant considers this her favorite holiday — the fact that whatever your age, fireworks are still kind of magic.