Making the Christmas parade come to life in Bel Air [Letter]


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 [Sunday's] Bel Air Main Street Christmas Parade and Shamrock Park Celebration.


The weather was a bit chilly, but that didn't matter because the very large and enthusiastic crowd gave true warmth and sunny happiness to the proceedings!

I walked the route just behind the end of the parade and was particularly pleased to see so many children (and even pets!) enjoying the sights and sounds. The joy on the faces of the kids and families made me very, very happy, and I think reflected the values of our community and the love we all have for this season. 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 Jennifer Mainster-Hanna, without whose hard work the parade could not have been anywhere near as good! Other volunteer marshals included Annette Blum, Aaron Cahall, Alex Krowzow, Patti Pearce, David Williams, Angela Robertson and a very hard-working group of wonderful students from Bel Air High School, members of the National Honor Society: Sarah Hawkins, Tess Sobka, Taylor Hensley, Tori Gryglewski, Catie Symalla, Kevin Porter and Jamie Klunk. These 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. Dina Boebel and Trish Heidenreich decorated the Reviewing Stand.

I also need to thank the hard-working members of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, led by Executive Director Scott Walker and Angela DeBrigida, who managed and prepared matters in Shamrock Park, where scads of folks enjoyed music, hot chocolate and cookies!

I also thank the Town of Bel Air administration, led by Town Administrator Chris Schlehr, for its support, and especially Director of Economic Development Trish Heidenreich, Angela Robertson and Public Relations Officer Jim Welch. Thanks also to Human Resources Director Michael Krantz, Administrative Assistant Laura Stafford, and Director of Public Works Randy Robertson and his hard-working crew, led by Mike Cornett, who seemed to be everywhere when anything was needed, with exactly the right tools.

The celebration, of course, was supported by Town of Bel Air Commissioners Robert Reier, Susan Burdette, Edward Hopkins, Robert Preston and Patrick Richards, who marched in the parade (some with their dogs!) and gave out candy canes, assisted by Dina Boebel and her family of Elves.

The entire celebration could not have been done without the unflinching support and assistance of the Town of Bel Air Police Department, especially Police Chief Leo Matrangola and Deputy Chief Rick Peschek. It was Rick who found our "missing" Oriole Bird wandering around South Main Street and directed him to me so we could get him into the parade!

Judges Angela Eaves, Beth Bowen, Yolanda Curtin, Susan Hazlett and Mimi Cooper, assisted by Trish Heidenreich, presided at the Reviewing Stand, where Tracy Hart from WAMD-AM did a wonderful job narrating the proceedings. The fabulous early entertainment was provided by the Patrick Redmond Band, whose spirited and upbeat music really made Main Street into a "Winter Carnival!"

Participants in the Parade included (in alphabetical order): America in Miniature, APG Proving Ground Delegation, Applause of Bel Air, The Bel Air Athletic Club Swim Team, Bel Air Police Explorer Honor Guard, Bel Air Terps Football and Cheerleading, Black Dogs & Company Rescue, Boy Scouts Troop 777, Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County, Brownie Troop 5277 and Junior Troop 848, Brownie Troop #5960, Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant, Roy Clark with Kung-Fu Panda, Cub Scout Pack 830, Dance With Me School of Dance, "Fan Man" the "Bus Boys" and Ravens Nest #1, Forest Hill Nursery School, Frosty the Snowman, Girl Scouts Troop 1827, Girl Scouts of Central MD Service Unit 678/Troops 1153,1842 & 4225, Girl Scouts of Central MD Troops 2017, 333 & 5976, Girl Scouts Troop 3120, Girl Scouts Troop 5953, the Grinch, Harford County Detachment Marine Corps League / Toys for Tots Train, Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen's Association Miss Fire Prevention 2013 Stacey Holden, Harford-Cecil Volunteer Firemen's Association Little Miss Fire Prevention Kaelyn Suit, Little Fire Chief Ayden Eyre, Junior Miss Fire Prevention Lauren Caudill and Miss Fire Prevention- Stephanie Gallion, Hoppin Hawks Jump Rope Club, the Humane Society of Harford County, the Jarrettsville Young Marines, the Kinetic Youth Academy, the Living Christmas Tree, McGruff the Crime Dog, Miss Bel Air 2013 Laura Patnaude, Miss Maryland 2013 Christina Denny, Miss Maryland's Outstanding Teen Sabrina Frost with Miss Maryland's Pre-Teen Laney Puhala, Miss Maryland High School of America 2014 Haley Herbert, the Oriole Bird, Relacoustics Band, Relevé Dance / TwirlTasTix, Ripken Baseball / Aberdeen Ironbirds with Ferrous and Ripcord, the Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dancing, Santa & Mrs. Santa pulled in a carriage from Benchfield Farms, Silver Eagle Cloggers, Step 2 It Dance Academy, Stilt Walking Snow Flakes by Michael Rosman, and Uncle Milton's Minis by Lindsay Leedy.

Local High School Marching Bands included Bel Air High School, C. Milton Wright High School, John Carroll School, Fallston High School, Patterson Mill High School, Edgewood High School and Joppatowne High School.

The judges determined the following awards for the procession: 1st Place: Cub Scout Troop 830 "Gone Fishin'!"; 2nd Place: Girl Scouts Service Unit 678/Multiple Troops 1153, 1842 & 4225; 3rd Place: Edgewood High School Marching Band; Honorable Mentions: Kinetic Youth Academy; Fan Man/Bus Boys Ravens Nest #1; Michael Rosman's Stilts Walkers "Snow Flakes."

At Shamrock Park, after the parade, Jim McMahan was the perfect Master of Ceremonies, leading the crowd in Christmas Carols, accompanied by a wonderful performance by the Bel Air Community Band, led by Scott Sharnetzka. Free hot chocolate and cookies were given to everyone, courtesy of Coffee Coffee and Mars Supermarkets.

At 5 p.m, there was the traditional tree lighting, and then the event was turned over to Rabbi Kushi Schusterman, of Chabad Bel Air, who led the crowd in Hanukkah songs, and explained the meaning of the holiday. Rabbi Schusterman presided over the lighting of a large Menorah, assisted by Luisa Caiazzo-Nutter, of SARC and Judge Mimi Cooper, who handled the actual flames. Chabad Bel Air also gave out Hanukkah food and drink to the large crowd.


The celebration could not have been produced without the financial support of many local businesses. Band Sponsors were Brown, Brown & Young Attorneys at Law, Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant, Corbin Fuel, Harford Mutual Insurance Company, Jones Junction Auto Dealerships and Klein's ShopRite of Maryland.

Other business sponsors included the Bel Air Athletic Club, Harford's Heart, Mountain Christian Church Bel Air, MaGerk's Pub & Grill, APGFCU, Palumbo Insurance Associates, Dr. Jeffrey Horowitz MD, Barely Used Consignments on Main Street, Circa Ltd., Divine Divas, Hair Design, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, Jen Snyder Photography, Ryan-Kilcoyne School of Irish Dance, Safe Harbors Travel Group, StaleFish Board Company and Tiny Toes.


Flowers by Design on Main Street kindly allowed the parade to use its rooms for "costumed character" changing! Thanks, Patti!

On a personal note, I want to thank the Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance for having the heart and sensitivity to mount such a celebration, now well into its third decade. 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 with events like this, so we look forward to the return of light, warmth and growth, both physical and spiritual.

Long may the Bel Air Christmas Parade and Celebration flourish!

Michael Blum


Bel Air Christmas Celebration 2013

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