The coronavirus pandemic forced Havre de Grace to cancel its planned Fourth of July parade and fireworks show last summer. Both are back this year, scheduled for Sunday, July 4, while the Havre de Grace Downtown Alliance is celebrating the Spirit of America with a new festival on Saturday, July 3.
When organizers of the city’s First Fridays and Independence Day events looked at the calendar, they wanted something to bridge the gap between the two this weekend. They turned to Bambi Johnson, the executive director of the Downtown Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes tourism and economic development in Havre de Grace.
“We needed an event to fill the gap between the two days of celebration, so we brainstormed and came up with the Spirit of America,” Johnson said. “It’s just a good ol’ wholesome family Americana event. We’re trying to pull all the best things from today and the past and throw it all into one five-hour festival.”
The inaugural festival will feature a boatload of activities for children and adults from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday along Washington Street.
Events will kick off with a Patriotic Kids Bike Parade at 12:30 p.m. for ages 15 and younger. All participants receive ribbons and gift bags. For adults, there will be a Tricycle Scurry at 1 p.m. and Cardboard Box Car races at 3 p.m. on Pennington Avenue.
There will also be a Patriotic Pooch Pageant at 4 p.m., where pups can hit the runway at Rochambeau Plaza dressed in their best outfit.
Prizes and trophies will be awarded for all the races and contests. The winner of the Cardboard Box Car race will receive a huge trophy and a $100 downtown Havre de Grace gift card, Johnson said.
Registration for the most of the events are nearly full, although a few spaces remain. It is free to register, with links on the Spirit of American Facebook event page, www.facebook.com/spriritHDG. People must be pre-registered to participate, however.
Red, white and blue sidewalk chalk will be available at the info booth for youngsters while supplies last, so that they can decorate streets and sidewalks in a patriotic theme, Johnson said.
Similar to the chili cook-off at the wintertime Ice Festival, there will also be a Mac & Cheese Throwdown among participating restaurants. For $5, attendees can purchase a taster’s card at the info booth that allows them to visit the restaurants and sample their macaroni and cheese. You can then vote for your favorite, and the winning eatery will be presented with a trophy at the end of the festival, Johnson said.
About 70 vendors will be on hand, including a food truck court in the parking lot of the visitor’s center on Pennington Avenue, and a beer garden.
The Tidewater Players will provide musical entertainment throughout the day and Havre de Grace Mayor William Martin will recite the Declaration of Independence every hour.
“We’ll all be reminded what the days is about and get the feels — all the feels,” Johnson said.
Organizers are also encouraging attendees to wear vintage or throwback outfits. Volunteers will be handing out downtown Havre de Grace gift cards randomly to people dressed for the occasion.
“Doesn’t matter what era it’s from,” Johnson said. “It can be Motown, it can be poodle skirts, it can be ‘80s — just something vintage.”
Staff, volunteers, and vendors will also be dressing in vintage attire, including some celebrity lookalikes, she said, as organizers aim for “a completely immersive experience.”
The event came together rather quickly, Johnson said, with plans starting to take shape in April. While it was initially planned as a one-off due to the unique set of circumstances with the opening on Saturday between the First Friday on July 2 and the return of July 4 activities on Sunday following the year off due to COVID. But thanks to the excitement plans have generated, Johnson thinks it could become a new tradition in Havre de Grace.
“It has generated so much excitement and people are getting so wrapped up in it, I’m going to push for it to be an annual event,” she said. “I love the community feel, the whole American pride feeling coming about through it.”
Havre de Grace parade and fireworks
The Havre de Grace Independence Day Parade will step off at 2 p.m. and progress down Union Avenue on the Fourth of July.
Following the parade, concerts will be held at Hutchins Park and Concord Point Park, with gates opening at 5 p.m. Sunday.
The Hutchins Park concert will be a Battle of the Decades, 80s vs. 90s, featuring the bands “More More More” and “Here’s To The Night.” Tickets are $20 and available on Eventbrite and the Havre de Grace Visitor Center. The music starts at 7 p.m.
At Concord Point, patriotic music will be performed by the Maryland Military Band. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
Fireworks will shot from a barge in the Susquehanna River, just off of Concord Point Park, starting at approximately 9:30 p.m. The fireworks may be viewed all along the shoreline in Havre de Grace and in many locations throughout the city.