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Letter: Thanks to everyone who helped put on Bel Air July 4 parade

On behalf of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., I wish to thank the greater Bel Air and Harford County community for its support of and response to the 2019 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day Parade.

As I’ve said over the years — and I have been the Bel Air July 4th Parade Chairman for 27 consecutive parades, now, and a member of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee since 1988 — we here in Bel Air are very much “in the Parade Business,” come what may. Heat? Wind? Rain? So what? Either because of climate change or for some other reason, we’ve had rain either in the staging time or during the actual July 4 parade four out of past five years, and eight of the last 10 years. This year saw a veritable torrent, followed by drizzle for about an hour — but once the rain stopped, it stayed dry, and the weather actually became rather pleasant for the parade and the fireworks.

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We hope we delivered a memorable parade, one worthy of our great country and community.

The Bel Air July 4th Parade shows the greater Bel Air area to be a patriotic, fun and accessible family-oriented community.

Many people do not realize that the Bel Air July 4th Parade, as part of the overall Independence Day celebrations in Bel Air, is funded and run by an independent not-for-profit organization, the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., which has a vision of what the parade should be, and tries, to the best of its ability, to bring this vision to reality. The committee relies on the contributions of individuals, businesses and municipalities — contributions of time, effort and funds. We interact with town government and law enforcement, and with the Town Department of Public Works. The committee also takes into account the needs of the town itself, and the sheer practicality and logistics inherent in mounting such an event.

It is also surely significant that our committee has received such support from our general community for the parade, beginning with our premier sponsor and fireworks sponsor, Jones Junction. Thanks, Jones Junction!

I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air Commissioners, led by its Chairperson, Mayor Susan U. Burdette, and Vice Chair Commissioner Brendan P. Hopkins, and also including Patrick Richards, Philip L. Einhorn and Amy Chmielewski. Thanks also go to Town Administrator L. Jesse Bane and Town Director of Human Resources and Administration Michael Krantz. I also wish to thank Chief of Police Charles Moore, Sgt. Robert Pfaff, the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Public Works personnel, led by Stephen Klein, and especially Chuck Arnold and Freddie Murillo, and the rest of the fine, hardworking DPW staff.

Before the parade, flags were given out to all children in the crowd along the parade route by volunteers from the Bel Air Lions Club, under the supervision of Don Stewart. What a marvelous thing this is — to go down the parade route and see thousands and thousands of American flags being waved! Thank you, Bel Air Lions!

In addition to the Lions, sponsoring organizations overall include the Bel Air Auxiliary Police Unit, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., and the Town of Bel Air. The Committee also received cash contributions from many individuals and businesses, as listed in our program, 20,000 copies of which were distributed throughout the area in the days before the event.

Members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department, the City of Aberdeen Police Department, the Havre de Grace Police Department, the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, the Harford County Sheriff's Office, and the Maryland State Police helped us mount the parade -- directing traffic, shuttling buses, helping lead the horses through the back streets, sealing off roads, etc. Most important of all was their help at the intersection of E. MacPhail Road and Route 924, where EVERY parade unit and all the buses were checked in and routed to the staging area. We couldn't have done it without them.

Thanks also to the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company personnel, marshaled by Mike Fields.

We had wonderful bands in our parade, led the 11 Harford County high schools — every Harford high school was represented: 10 public and 1 independent! Their hard-working band directors deserve high marks for turning their bands out in such great numbers and with such great spirit, in the midst of summer vacation! So, I give great thanks to Aberdeen High School Band Director Kaitlyn Wittman, Bel Air High School Band Director Samantha Romero, C. Milton Wright High School Band Director Dr. Joel Frisch, Edgewood High School Band Director Thomas Vosburg, Fallston High School Band Director Craig Harvey, Harford Technical High School Band Director Andrew Rising, Havre de Grace High School Band Director Richard Hauf, John Carroll School Band Director Casey Knell, Joppatowne High School Band Director Joshua Baker, North Harford High School Band Director John Wojciechowski, and Patterson Mill High School Band Director Ron Burke.

To the many businesses, churches, clubs, individuals and organizations who participated in the parade — you truly exemplify what it means to be public-spirited, patriotic and community-minded. The decorated floats, cars and marching units were many and colorful; your patience and spirit of fun shone brightly through the evening, all the way until the end of the parade.

I want to also thank our elected public officials for their cooperation and spirited participation.

We all send our grateful appreciation to the residents and businesses on Idlewild, Emmorton Road and South Main Street, who kindly allowed us to marshal the parade in front of and all around them. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Harford Mutual Insurance Company and Klein’s ShopRite of North Main Street, which allowed us to use their parking lots to link up performers and buses and families after the parade. We also received tremendous support from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command (CBRNE) of the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, whose commander, Brigadier General James Bonner, along with his senior enlisted adviser, Command Sergeant Major Henney Hodgkins, walked in the parade with the 20th CBRNE Command Honor Guard.

Without all this support, we could not have held the parade.

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It takes hours and hours of commitment and hard work from many, many volunteers to make a parade happen, and I need to send many, many thanks to our many, many volunteers, including parade marshals Annette Blum, Aaron Cahall, Abigail Clarke, Cam Clarke, Dan Clarke, Tracy Clarke, Walter Comer III, Walter Comer IV, Greg Cooper, Ron Eastridge, Mike Fields, Chris Garvin, JP Garvin, Rick Grant, Chandra Krantz, Alex Krowzow, Bill McCutcheon, Vincent Nohe, Anne Phillips, Graham Phillips, Kim Politz, Andy Politz, Joseph Seeley, Bill Smith, Perry Thompson, Chris Van de Verg, Ted Van de Verg, David Williams, Lisa Williams, Mary Ann Williams, Hope Yamagata, Josh Yamagata and Todd Yamagata.

Banners were carried by members of the North Harford Neptunes Swim Club and the Harford Football Club, under the direction of Hope Yamagata.

The Parade Master of Ceremonies, again, was Don Morrison. Narration coordination was by Alex Krowzow and Perry Thompson. The National Anthem was beautifully sung from the reviewing stand by Leah Drummond. Debby Stewart was the marshals’ shuttle, bringing us cold drinks and hot dogs all evening! Don Stewart managed the Lions Club Flag Giveway and all walkie-talkie communications. Vendors were coordinated by John Hayes.

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Many of our bands in the parade were sponsored by area businesses. The sponsors were Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs, sponsor of the White Sabers Drum & Bugle Corps; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant, sponsor of the Patterson Mill High School Band; Carsins Run at Eva Mar, sponsor of The John Carroll School Band; HAR-CO Credit Union, sponsor of The Reading Buccaneers Drum & Bugle Corps; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association, sponsor of the Harford Highlanders Pipe Band; Jones Junction, sponsor of the C. Milton Wright High School Band; Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland, sponsor of the North Harford High School Bank; Plaza Ford, sponsor of Fallston High School Band; PNC Bank, sponsor of the Bel Air High School Band; Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association, sponsor of the Harford Technical High School Band; and TD Bank, sponsor of the Havre de Grace High School Band.

If by any chance I've left out someone who worked with us on the parade, or contributed to it, please accept my apologies, and my personal thanks, for your volunteerism and commitment.

Our parade judges (who choose to remain anonymous) evaluated and ranked the various units in categories for performance and appearance awards and prizes. All units were judged as to how well they adhered to, or displayed the parade’s theme: “Celebrating Bel Air — Our Home Town!” Particular praise goes to the Daughters, Sons and Children of the American Revolution’s float, which won the “best float” award for the second year in a row, and which truly showed how to take a theme and make it real.

My vote for the “unsung hero” award this year has to be split in half: first, to Chandra Krantz, who ably handled the largest and best Equestrian Unit we’ve ever had! The other half goes to the entire Williams/Politz family — David, Mary Anne, Lisa, Kim and Andy — who, between them, marshaled units, handled dispersal, decorated and managed the reviewing stand, and earlier helped run the horseshoe pitch event.

And finally, I’d like to — again, as strongly and as enthusiastically as possible — personally thank the man who might just be the chief volunteer of Bel Air — Don Stewart, President of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. As I mentioned above, Don arranged and supervised the flag giveaway, and his thoughtful and caring support, his creativity in coming up with new ideas and interesting additions to a function that he’s been working on for something like 35 years, and his hard work, sensitivity, organization, dedication and flexibility are without peer. Without the visionary ideals of our president, Don Stewart, nothing of value or quality would happen in Bel Air on July 4.

Thanks again, Don, for everything. It was a happy day for our community when Don and Debby Stewart chose to live here.

And now — it's time to start working on 2020!

MICHAEL I . BLUM

The writer is the parade chairman for the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.

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