The organizers of the Bel Air Independence Day activities are expecting a crowd of more than 50,000 for the July 4 town parade and fireworks, and they are encouraging those who plan to attend to get an early start to find parking.
The Bel Air parking garage on Hickory Avenue will be open all day and night for parade and fireworks spectators. Organizers encourage citizens to use the garage because it is close to the parade route. Other parking areas commonly used by spectators are the Bel Air Plaza parking lot and Howard Park, which offers free parking.
Traffic detour plans have been set by Leo Matrangola, chief of the Bel Air Police Department. As in past years, police will close all roads used for the parade. It begins at Route 24 and U.S. 1, heads north up U.S. 1 to Kenmore Avenue, then loops into the Bel Air High School area for its finish.
Beginning at 4:30 p.m., new Route 24 willbe closed from Ring Factory Road to U.S 1. Traffic will be rerouted onto Tollgate Road and Ring Factory Road.
From 5:30 p.m., U.S. 1 will be closed between Tollgate Road and South Main Street. Traffic will be rerouted northbound to Ring Factory Road, Route 924, MacPhail Road and Brier Hill Road, and southbound to Hays Street, Thomas Street, Kelly Avenue, Boulton Street and back to Tollgate Road. At 6 p.m., Kenmore Avenue and South Main Street up to Idelwild Street will be closed. Motorists should use Hickory Avenue and Maitland Street.
Allclosed routes will reopen at the conclusion of the parade, approximately 9:30 p.m.
The Independence Day events, which are free and open to the public, will begin at 6:45 a.m. with a flag-raising ceremonyat Bel Air Middle School. Family events scheduled at the Bel Air High and Middle School grounds include horseshoe pitching, a hamster race, turtle derby, the popular frog-jumping contest, which last year included 110 frogs, a bicycle rodeo and a watermelon-eating contest. There are prizes for the top three finishers in each event, plus ribbons for everyone who participates. The finale will be the fireworks display.
The following is a schedule of July 4th events, times and locations:
* 6:45 a.m. -- Flag raising, Bel Air Middle School.
* 7 to 10:30 a.m. -- Pancake and sausage breakfast, Bel Air Middle School.
* 9 a.m. -- Horseshoe pitching, Bel Air High School (new location, outer fields); registration at 8:30 a.m.
* 9:30 a.m. -- Turtle derby, baseball infield; registration at 9 a.m. Limit is three turtles per entrant.
* 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- Child's safety fair, Wakefield Elementary School.
* 11 a.m. -- Uncle Sam says (for children ages 5 to 7 and 8 to 13), Bel Air Middle School.
* 11 a.m. -- Bicycle rodeo registration and inspection, Wakefield Elementary School.
* 11 a.m. -- Frog-jumping contest, baseball infield; registration at 10:30 a.m. Limit is two frogs per entrant.
* Noon -- Bicycle rodeo, Wakefield Elementary School (children must register and have their bicycles inspected by 11 a.m.).
* 1 p.m. -- Watermelon-eating contest, Bel Air High basketball courts.
* 3 p.m. -- Model car racing finals, baseball infield.
* 6:30 p.m. -- Parade begins at intersection of U.S. 1 and Route 24.
* 9 p.m. -- Patriotic band concert,school basketball courts area.
* 9:30 p.m. -- Fireworks display, Bel Air High School grounds.
Restrooms are available at the rear of Bel Air High and Bel Air Middle schools. Refreshments and souvenirsare available from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at various points around the fields and parade route.