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Thanks for another successful Bel Air Christmas Parade [Letter]

The Christmas season officially opened in Bel Air Sunday evening with the annual Christmas parade, tree lighting and carol singing along with a roaring bonfire in Shamrock Park.
The Christmas season officially opened in Bel Air Sunday evening with the annual Christmas parade, tree lighting and carol singing along with a roaring bonfire in Shamrock Park. (Phil Grout | For The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Editor:

On behalf of the Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, I would like to thank the citizens of greater Bel Air for their attendance and enthusiasm at the Sunday, December 4, 2016, Town of Bel Air Christmas Parade and Celebration.

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Last year we had what we thought was the largest crowd ever — possibly because last year the weather was warm and sunny and our home football team was playing away at night. So with a cloudy, cold day and a home football game occurring at the same time, we anticipated a smaller crowd. We were wrong. The crowd this year was probably larger than last year! And although it was indeed cold and cloudy, the warmth of the smiles and the spirit of the participants and the crowd added energy and "heat" as night fell.

I walked the route just behind the end of the parade and was astounded at the size of the crowds. I was particularly pleased to see so many children enjoying the sights and sounds. The joy on the faces of the kids and families reflect the values of our community and the love we all have for this season. We are lucky to live in such an area, and to have such citizens turn out. Bel Air is indeed a wonderful, family-friendly place, and it's events like this that make that clearly apparent to all.

Special thanks must go to the many hard-working volunteers who put the entire celebration together, especially including our parade marshals Aaron Cahall, Angela Robertson, Trish Heidenreich, Patty Sterling, Sandy Saunders and a very hard-working group of wonderful students from Bel Air High School: mostly members of the National Honor Society under the supervision of Mrs. Kelly Blackburn: Bryce Robertson, Drew Gagnon, Amy Das, Dhavel Patel, Ryan Chan, Nicole Salib, Olivia McPhee, Sarah Quinn, Trevor Quinn, Julianna Pitzer, Jenna Signorelli, Taylor Patrick, Lauren Gray and about half-a-dozen more who showed up and worked hard at the event. The students showed their intelligence and leadership abilities as they did a fantastic job coping with our very chaotic and stressful staging area! It takes a lot of people to keep such a parade in order, and all these volunteers worked beautifully together.

The sponsor banners were carried by members of Cub Scout Pack 777, based at Bel Air United Methodist Church, organized by Hope Yamagata, who absolutely excelled at a very complex task. Thanks again, Hope!

The celebration was supported by Town of Bel Air Commissioners Susan Burdette (Chairman), Robert M. Preston (Vice Chairman), Patrick Richards, Brendan Hopkins and Philip Einhorn, who also walked in the front of the parade, greeting everyone. I also must thank the Town of Bel Air Administration, led by Town Manager Jesse Bane, for its support, and especially that of Director of Economic Development Trish Heidenreich and staff members Angela Robertson, Patty Sterling and Sandy Saunders. Thanks also to Director of Public Works Steve Kline and his hard-working crew, led by Freddie and Jake, who seemed to be anywhere anything was needed, with exactly the right tools and always the biggest smiles.

The 2016 Bel Air Christmas Parade was sponsored by Patient First Neighborhood Medical Centers. Other sponsors included the Aberdeen Proving Ground Federal Credit Union and Jones Junction, the entertainment sponsors, and Howard Bank, sponsor of Miss Bel Air and Miss Maryland in the parade. Band Sponsors were A Better Answer, Buontempo/Tower Restaurant, Corbin Fuel Company, Cramer & Noorani Orthodontics, Harford Mutual Insurance Company, Klein's ShopRite of Harford County, and Music Land. MaGerk's was the sponsor of the Reviewing Stand, and Safe Harbors Travel was the Concert Sponsor. Hot cocoa and cookies sponsors were Sunny Day Cafe, Bel Air Lions Club and Eco-Cool HVAC. Other supporting sponsors included Towne Barbers and PeoplesBank. The bonfire was built and managed by Jay van Deusen of Van Deusen Construction, with the help of Bel Air Public Works. Dina Boebel and Trish Heidenreich decorated the Reviewing Stand. Candy canes were given out Dina Boebel and her family of Elves. Country Britches Store on Main Street kindly allowed the parade to use its rooms for "costumed character" changing!

I also need to thank the hard-working members of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, led by Executive Director Christine McPherson and Promotions Director Roman Davidyuk, who managed matters in Shamrock Park, where scads of folks enjoyed music, hot chocolate and cookies, and who were responsible for the budgeting of the entire event.

The entire celebration could not have been done without the unflinching support and assistance of the Town of Bel Air Police Department, and especially Police Chief Chuck Moore.

At the parade reviewing stand, Judges Angela Eaves, Beth Bowen, Susan Hazlett and Mimi Cooper, assisted by Trish Heidenreich, presided, where Tracy Hart from FM 104.7 did a wonderful job narrating the proceedings. The fabulous early entertainment was provided by the Route 66 Band, whose spirited and upbeat music really made Main Street into a "Winter Carnival"!

Participants in the parade included (in alphabetical order): 20th CBRNE Command Color Guard, Commanding General and CSM, plus up-armored Humm-Vee;; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant Costumed Characters; Christ Our King Co-Op Preschool; Cub Scout Pack 807; Cub Scout Pack 830; Daisy Troop 1822; Daisy Troop 2495; Dance With Me School of Dance; Disney Princesses and Super Heroes from The Magic Continues Character Company of Forest Hill; Ferrous and Ripcord from the ABERDEEN IRONBIRDS; Fire Prevention Ambassadors Little Miss Fire Prevention Delilah Hanks, Little Fire Chief Bradley Rigdon, Junior Miss Fire Prevention Mackenna Steininger and Miss Fire Prevention Lauren Caudill; Forest Hill Nursery School; Frosty the Snowman; Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Service Unit 674 (Troops 2, 34, 419, 595, 599, 661, 765, 883, 917, 932, 1065, 1219, 1362, 1421, 1663, 1827, 2375, 3120, 3512); Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Service Unit 678 (Troops 992, 900, 2706, 2607, 4228, 4233, 1842, 1192, 4229), Girl Scout Troop 250, Girl Scout Troop 1639, Girl Scout Troop 4804, Girl Scout Troop 5296, Girl Scout Troop 5953 AND Cub Scout Den 2 Wolves; Girls on the Run of Harford & Cecil Counties; Harford North Stars Ice Hockey Team; Hoppin' Hawks Jump Rope Team; Ihop Belair; Independent Brewing Company; John Carroll Cheerleaders; Kinetic Youth Academy; the Living Christmas Tree; Lunar Athletics; McGruff the Crime Dog & Bel Air Police Explorers; March of Dimes; Marine Corps League; Miss Bel Air; Miss Maryland; Miss Maryland's Outstanding Teen; Rosman's Summer Circus Camp; Santa and Mrs. Claus; the Silver Eagle Cloggers; the Society of Italian-American Businessmen; Stroller Strides; Supernova Dance Company; TwirlTasTix / Relevé Dance and Upper Cross Roads Baptist Church.

Local high school marching bands were from Bel Air High School, C. Milton Wright High School, Fallston High School, John Carroll School, Patterson Mill High School, Edgewood High School and Joppatowne High School. I want to thank the Band Directors for their professionalism and organization. All the kids looked great!

The judges determined the following awards for the parade: 1st Place: Girl Scouts of Central MD Service Unit 674; 2nd Place: C. Milton Wright High School Marching Mustang Band; 3rd Place: Michael Rosman's Summer Circus Camp; 1st Honorable Mention (tie): TwirlTasTix and Hoppin' Hawks; 2nd Honorable Mention: Harford North Stars Ice Hockey Team.

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At Shamrock Park, after the parade, Master of Ceremonies Jim McMahan led the crowd in Christmas Carols, accompanied by a wonderful performance by the Bel Air Community Band, led by Scott Sharnetzka, and the Just Having Fun Singings. At 4:45 p.m., there was the traditional tree lighting, created by the Town of Bel Air Public Works Department.

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On a personal note, I want to thank the Town of Bel Air for having the heart and sensitivity to mount such a celebration. The Holiday Season (whether one celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or any other holiday) is one of joy, and is the time to celebrate life and family, and to give to charity and to the community. It is the season of hope and rebirth, and of the fellowship of humankind. As the days grow dark and cold, we illuminate and warm our community and our lives by the love we share and with events like this. We look forward to the return of light, warmth and growth, both physical and spiritual, and we pray for peace for us, for our community, and for all humanity.

Michael Blum

Chairman

Bel Air Christmas Celebration 2016

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