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Laurel officials revving up Fourth of July celebration

Laurel officials revving up Fourth of July celebration
People watch the fireworks show in Laurel in 2014. (Nate Pesce / For Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With each firework that explodes overhead at Granville Gude Park during Laurel’s Independence Day Celebration, Jim Kronmeyer and his crew of 20 volunteers can’t help but smile.

“For almost every shot, you hear some reaction from the crowd,” Kronmeyer said. “We can hear them from across the lake. You can always tell the ones people love.”

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This year, Laurel’s Independence Day Celebration will take place on Saturday, July 6. Featuring a parade, outdoor games and a concert, the event ends with fireworks around 9:15 p.m.

Since 1996, Kronmeyer has been in charge of the city’s fireworks display. It’s a job that has him working the whole weekend setting up, shooting off and cleaning up fireworks.

“Basically, the fireworks have me from Friday through Sunday,” Kronmeyer admitted. “Sunday afternoon, I go home and take a nap.”

To become Laurel’s fireworks chairman, Kronmeyer had to receive training from a fireworks company licensed in the state of Maryland, do five shoots and take a test to become a licensed shooter. His license must be renewed every four years. While some of his volunteers also are licensed shooters, Kronmeyer must supervise those who are not.

“We’ve done it so many years in a row,” Kronmeyer said, of his crew. “Everybody knows what needs to be done and gets it done.”

About 50,000 people enjoy the 45-minute display, according to Careen Koubek, chairwoman of the 4th of July Celebration Committee.

“It’s not just filled; it’s standing room only,” Koubek said. “People line up at the shopping center and fill the tables at different restaurants. It’s a big to-do.”

The show costs about $35,000, according to Koubek. Add in the costs for entertainment, security, portable toilets and other expenses and the cost for the one-day celebration totals between $40,000 to $50,000.

“A couple of years we’ve come close to not having fireworks,” Koubek said. “Our committee is all volunteers and we have to raise the funds year after year.”

While the mayor and City Council provide some funds and Prince George’s County District 1 Tom Dernoga awarded a grant, the committee will set up buckets for people to donate during the event.

“If everyone would put money in a bucket — between $1 to $5, we would not have to put that bucket out for another year or so,” Koubek said. “It would be a relief off of the volunteers’ shoulders.”

The committee averages six to 10 volunteers at its monthly meetings, Koubek said, and many of the members are getting older and looking to retire and do other things.

“It is a new era. A new generation needs to give us fresh ideas,” Koubek said. “We want to get everybody involved.”

Next year’s event should be even more special, Koubek said, as the city of Laurel will also be celebrating 150 years.

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“There will be a whole bunch of stuff going on for that and the Fourth of July committee will be right in the middle of it,” Koubek said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do to bring something new to the event.”

For this year’s 41st celebration, all the traditions the community expects will take place with the parade beginning at 11 a.m. and featuring members of American Legion Post 60 as its grand marshal. An antique car show will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Granville Gude Park on Mulberry Street.

Also in the park will be free family games, including corn hole, minute-to-win-it games and a parachute to run under will also be offered from 3 to 5 p.m. by Laurel’s Parks and Recreation.

A hot dog-eating contest will take place at 4 p.m. and the band Oracle will perform at 5:15 p.m.

“It’s exciting to do this, but, oh my gosh, there is so much to do,” said Koubek, who has been part of the committee for over five years. “I have a blast.”

Koubek stressed that pets are not allowed, except for service animals.

“It is too hot on the asphalt for pets at the parade,” Koubek said. “For the fireworks, you know how nervous pets are when fireworks go off. We do not want them running off.”

Kronmeyer hopes the weather will cooperate. It is not easy to work in hot temperatures and rain creates a lot of extra work.

“We’ve been very fortunate all these years,” Kronmeyer said. “I think only once have we had a thunderstorm pass through pretty quickly.”

“I keep on doing it,” Kronmeyer laughed. “I wouldn’t be doing it without all the help I get.”

No matter the weather or all the work involved, the Fourth of July will always be special to Kronmeyer.

“I met my wife on the Fourth of July at McCullough Field,” Kronmeyer said. “When I met her, I saw fireworks.”

On Saturday, July 6, he hopes everyone gets a chance to see fireworks, too.

Laurel’s Independence Day Celebration will be held Saturday, July 6, beginning at 11 a.m. with a parade followed by a variety of events throughout the day and ending with fireworks at 9:15 p.m. at Granville Gude Park, Mulberry Street. For a complete schedule of events go to laurel4th,org.

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