Get ready Harford County. The most rip-roarin, explosive holiday of the year is here and, as always, there will be multiple celebrations, parades and fireworks from which to enjoy another memorable Independence Day.
Another big crowd already was on hand for Saturday's 27th annual Darlington Independence Day Parade and fireworks.
Coming Friday are Bel Air's day-long July 4 events culminating in one of the state's biggest parades and fireworks shows. Nearby Kingsville will likewise hold its annual July 4 parade Friday morning.
And there's more to come on Saturday, with the annual Havre de Grace Independence Day Parade and fireworks and the Edgewood/Joppatowne Independence Day Parade that has fast become another Harford tradition.
Although there is a threat of rain Friday from the season's first tropical storm, Bel Air's parade chairman said he is optimistic the parade, fireworks and other events will go on as scheduled.
Bel Air is celebrating "200 Star-Spangled Years" since the writing of the national anthem by Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Ft. McHenry in 1814.
Friday's full day of patriotic celebrations will include all the traditional events in the morning, followed by the parade and fireworks.
"We have a great parade this year, with about 25 wonderful bands from near and far, and some exciting new units mixed with some old favorites," said parade chairman Michael Blum, who early in the week was still dealing with last-minute requests to enter the parade.
"If you want color-guards, roller-derby skaters, pompom girls, Cub Scouts, Young Marines, baton twirlers, Boumi motorcyclists, contingents of soldiers from APG, monster trucks, floats from local churches and civic groups, local businesses, beauty queens, car dealers and more, all decked out celebrating the 4th of July, this is the parade for you," Blum said.
The Fourth of July in Bel Air gets going with a flag ceremony at Bel Air High School at 6:45 a.m., with "Star Spangled Banner" performed by soprano soloist Pamela Rinehart, followed by the community-favorite Pancake Breakfast at 7 a.m. featuring blueberry pancakes and sausage. Admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10.
To mark the bicentennial of the writing of the national anthem, the Bel Air Independence Day Committee plans flag ceremonies at each of its event locations. A flag ceremony and anthem performed by Rinehart will open the horseshoe pitching fields at Rockfield Park at 7:45 a.m., with registration for the regionally-known competition to follow at 8 a.m.
The Hays House's flag ceremony will feature a performance by The Catherine Street Consort of the original "Star-Spangled Banner" melody, the Anacreontic Song, at 8:45 a.m. As always, there will be music, tours and patriotic children's games.
Rinehart will open the series of events at Shamrock Park, also at 8:45 a.m. The traditional events include face painting, turtle derby and frog jumping contest, Uncle Sam Says and the watermelon eating contest.
The Turtle Derby will also be at 9 a.m. The Great Bel Air Frog Jumping contest is at 10 a.m, with registration at 9:30 a.m. Uncle Sam Says begins at 11 a.m. and a watermelon eating contest at 11:30 a.m.
Following a final performance by Rinehart, the annual Bicycle Rodeo will take place at Bel Air Elementary School on Lee Street at 11 a.m.
At 6 p.m. the parade begins, starting at the intersection of Gordon and North Main streets, proceeding down Main to a conclusion at Idlewild Street.
The day concludes at 9:30 p.m. with fireworks launched from Rockfield Park. Spectators are asked to stay out of marked no-entry zones.
Potential weather impact
"We don't look to have any weather problems," Blum said Thursday afternoon about the potential threat of morning rain Friday from Tropical Storm Arthur.
He noted, however, that each individual event during the day, such as the pancake breakfast, frog jumping contest and turtle derby, Uncle Sam Says and bicycle rodeo, is controlled by the organization or individual that sponsors it and it would be up to them to cancel. None of those events is "postponable," Blum said, meaning they won't be rescheduled.
"The current forecast for 4 p.m. [when the parade begins] is a zero chance for precipitation," Blum said. "The parade will go on unless it's a matter of public safety, like a tornado or lighting flashes. We've had quite a few parades in the rain in the last 10 years – we just go and, in fact, we don't mind a little rain because it cools things off."
If something did happen weather-wise to force them to stop the parade, it would not be rescheduled, Blum said. The last Bel Air parade to be canceled was in 1989, he added.
Blum said there is a provision to move the fireworks to Saturday night if there is a weather problem Friday.
Such a decision wouldn't be made until around 9 p.m. Friday, however.
"We have fired away in pouring rain," Blum said. "The only scenario I can see would be if the wind kicked up at 9:30 and we couldn't fire."
The Greater Kingsville Civic Association Inc. and the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company will sponsor the community's 34th Kingsville Independence Day Parade on Friday.
Pre-parade music and celebrations, sponsored by Reds and PNC Bank, commence at 10 a.m. at the judges viewing stand at Kingsville's crossroads triangle along Route 1. Planned entertainment includes Buttons the Clown, Baltimore City Pipe Band, the Oriole Bird, Upper Falls Dance Academy, Sounding Brass Quintet and a presentation of patriotic songs by Susie Rising and Sammy Jungwirth. The parade begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company on Bellvue Avenue, proceeds down Bradshaw Road to Jerusalem Road and finishes at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. There is no rain date; Bradshaw and Jerusalem roads will be closed starting at 9:50 a.m.
Opening ceremonies at the judges viewing stand are at 11 a.m. led by Bruce McCubbin, master of ceremonies, with Susie Rising performing the national anthem along with John Carroll School Band led by Marc Bolden and Joppatowne High School Mariner Marching Band. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Col. Chris Cole, joint logistics officer, Maryland Army National Guard.
There is no rain date for the Kingsville parade. For more information, visit http://www.kingsvilleparade.org.
Havre de Grace
The Havre de Grace parade will be Saturday at 2 p.m. on Union Avenue. There will be a concert at 7 p.m. in the Yacht Basin at Tydings Park with DJ Jeff Thompson serving as master of ceremonies. Fireworks begin at dark in Tydings Park. The concert will continue after the fireworks until 10:30 p.m. No chairs may be placed on parade route prior to 8 a.m. July 5.
The parade features more than a dozen musical units including the Havre de Grace High School Marching Band; the Ravens' Marching Band; John F. Nicoll Pipes and Drums; the Atlantic Watch Pipe Band; Harford Highlanders Pipe Band; Chesapeake Community Band; Westminster Community Band; Calvert Hall College High School Band; The American Originals; the Reilly Raiders; Archer-Epler Musketeers; the Fusion Corps; Shenandoah Sound; Carolina Gold; the Skyliners; the Sun Devils; Alliance; and Thunder Brigade D&B Corps.
Parade grand marshals are John Narvell, president, and Jim Nemeth, treasurer, of the Havre de Grace Recreation committee.
The parade also includes majorette/dance units, some numbering in excess of 100 people, as well as local dignitaries, fire companies, numerous floats, clowns, color guards, antique vehicles, youth groups, racing vehicles, custom cars and equestrian units.
Parking will be available on the streets of Havre de Grace. There is very limited handicapped parking in Tydings Park. There is no admission fee and all activities are handicapped accessible.
Event T-shirts are available at the Chamber of Commerce Office on Pennington Avenue in Havre de Grace and will be sold at the carnival for $8 in most sizes; $9 for extra-large and double-extra-large.
The carnival, proceeds from which help cover the cost of paying for the annual event, opened Tuesday in Tydings Park and runs through the weekend.
The Edgewood-Joppatowne Independence Day Parade will begin at 6 p.m. Saturday along a one-mile route from Shore Drive along Joppa Farm Road to Hinton Road at the entrance to Joppatowne High School.
"We have a very diverse group of marchers music, boats, floats, politicians, churches and Army from Aberdeen Proving Ground," parade committee member Sue Heselton said.
This year's theme is "Pirates of the Caribbean," and Heselton said everyone is encouraged to participate in pirate dress.