Whether we're talking about a small group of neighbors or a mob of several hundred thousand, the Fourth of July parades and fireworks taking place in communities throughout Maryland this weekend are all about reinforcing the sense of community.
As Donald Stewart, president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc., says: "Events like this really bring a community together. John Adams remarked of the Declaration of Independence that it was a very important event that should be celebrated in every corner of the nation every year. We look on it as an opportunity for our people to celebrate the nation's birthday at the community level."
The biggest community gathering, of course, is at Baltimore's Inner Harbor Monday at 9:30 p.m., where as many as 200,000 will gather to see the 30-minute fireworks display staged by Zambelli Internationale.
Because of the usual congestion around the harbor for that grand show, you may want to consider mass transit. The MTA metro will operate every 15 minutes from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and the light rail will operate every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. MTA buses will run on Sunday schedules with baseball express service.
Besides the brief fireworks blitz, there is a whole weekend of activities at Harborplace, which is celebrating its 14th anniversary.
In the Harborplace amphitheatre today, the country rock band Grandsons of the Pioneers plays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the Magical MJ Jugglers perform at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, the Harborplace Merchants Association Birthday Party is serving up thousands of pieces of birthday cake from noon to 1 p.m., a Winnie the Pooh visit from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the jazz and South African rhythms from Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, there's yet another visit from the ubiquitous Winnie the Pooh from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., patriotic and traditional band selections from the 1st U.S. Army Band from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and similar music from the 229th Army Band from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Monday, a classic vehicle rally on the parking lot near the Light Street Pavilion occurs from noon to 5 p.m., then it's back over to Harborplace for the blues band Rick Serfas and the Soul Providers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., country music from the Maria Rose Band from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and of course the biggest bang of all, the Harborside fireworks celebration at 9:30 p.m. (which will be simulcast on WMIX-FM 106.5).
Other Inner Harbor attractions Monday night include the Baltimore Museum of Industry at 1415 Key Highway, which has a "picnic on the pier" from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Hot dogs, soda and free parking area included in the price of $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 12 ($7.50 for adult museum members and $3.50 for their kids). Call (410) 727-4808.
Another harborside perch will be at the National Aquarium on Pier 4, where soda, entertainment and a great view are yours from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults, $10 for kids ages 3 to 11 ($7 for members and $5 for their kids). For reservations, call (410) 576-3800.
Rain date for the Inner Harbor fireworks is Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. For more information on Baltimore's Fourth of July-related events, call (410) 837-4636 or 1-800-282-6632.
The annual parade in Towson draws huge crowds. If you want to join in, there is pre-parade entertainment starting Monday at 9 a.m. The parade itself kicks off at 10:30 a.m. from Burke Avenue and York Road. The more than 100 units in the parade include veterans of the D-Day campaign, a martial arts group, antique fire engines, a soccer team, Liberty Showcase Theater doing music from "Into the Woods," a Highland pipes band, and even a high school band from Minnesota. Call (410) 825-9384.
In the evening, many folks around Towson watch the fireworks launched from the parking lot of the Luskin's store at 1125 Cromwell Bridge Road. Its hilly site means people from miles around will be able to see the show when it hits the air on Monday at dusk. (410) 321-4446.
Up in Oregon Ridge Park, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra does its patriotic duty with concerts capped with fireworks Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. The park opens at 3 p.m. each day. Rain date for both concerts is Tuesday at 9 p.m.
BSO associate conductor David Lockington leads the orchestra in "The Star-Spangled Banner," Antonin Dvorak's Largo from his Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ("From the New World"), Richard Hayman's "American Song-Fest Sing Along," John Philip Sousa's "Semper Fidelis March," and selections from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo," Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Sousa's "The Liberty Bell March."
These concerts are a popular tradition, averaging 8,000 people per concert. Many patrons -- and their picnic baskets -- arrive early. Food available at the site will include such favorites as apple pie and red, white and blue ice pops.
Tickets for the Oregon Ridge concerts are $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under. Call (410) 783-8000.
Also in northern Baltimore County, the Manor Center Shopping Center at Jarrettsville Pike and Sweet Air Road is the site on Saturday for a bicycle and pet parade for kids around 10 a.m., a daylong craft fair and sidewalk sale, a Boumi Temple Chanters performance at 4 p.m., a concert by the Zimpsons at 5 p.m., and fireworks around 9 p.m.
To the northeast in Baltimore County, there are fireworks Monday at dusk in Fullerton Park, off the 7400 block of Belair Road. Call (410) 887-5307.
In southeastern Baltimore County, the Dundalk Heritage Fair in Dundalk Park offers plenty to do this weekend. The fair runs today through Sunday from noon to 9:30 p.m. Besides arts, crafts and ethnic foods, there is entertainment, including Chubby Checker tonight at 8, Before Preps Saturday at 8 p.m., and Frankie Ford, Bobby Lewis and Gene Vincentt Sunday at 8 p.m. There is a $3 daily admission. Call (410) 284-0591.
On the parade and fireworks front, Monday features a parade starting at 8:30 a.m. from the Logan Shopping Center in Dundalk. Monday night fireworks are after 9 p.m. at Grange Elementary School at 2000 Church Road also in Dundalk. Call (410) 887-7043.
On the west side of Baltimore County, Monday's events start at 9:30 a.m. with children's games and races on the grounds of Catonsville High School. There is a musical program at the Christian Temple at Edmondson Avenue and Academy Road at 11 a.m., then the reliably big parade at 3 p.m. along Frederick Road. A special feature of this year's parade will be a salute to D-Day veterans. A concert by Tailgunner takes place at Catonsville High School at 7:30 p.m., followed by a veteran's tribute at 9 p.m. and fireworks at 9:15 p.m. Call (410) 788-9188.
Events in Harford County on Monday take place at Bel Air High School and Middle School. They include a hamster race, a turtle derby, a frog-jumping contest, horseshoe pitch, watermelon-eating contest and model car racing in the morning and early afternoon. The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. from routes 1 and 24, proceeding down Route 1 into town. Back on school grounds, there's a community band concert at 8:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Call (410) 893-4444.
In Havre de Grace, events on Sunday include a parade along Union Avenue at 2 p.m., a concert in the Yacht Basin at 7:30 p.m. and fireworks at dusk in Tydings Park. Call (410) 939-4362.
People are naturally drawn to the booming and bright fury of fireworks, especially when the incendiary display is mirrored in a calm body of water. Fortunately for residents of Columbia, its wise planners incorporated some considerable lakes into their development scheme. And large crowds can be relied on to turn up at the Town Center waterfront Lake Kittamaqundi for the annual fireworks blast Sunday night at 9:30. Call (410) 740-4545.
Anne Arundel County
In Annapolis, the parade kicks off on Monday at 6:30 p.m. from St. John's College and heads to the Naval Academy grounds. There is a Navy Band concert around 8 p.m. at Farragut Field followed by fireworks over the Severn River at 9:15 p.m. Call (410) 280-0445.
Whether you're downtown or uptown in Ocean City, you will be able to see fireworks Monday night. Uptown, in Northside Park at 125th Street, a "Jamboree in the Park" runs from noon until the fireworks commence at 9:30 p.m. Daylong events range from sack races to pie-eating contests, live music to craft displays. An entertainment program titled "USO in the Mood" evokes the music of the D-Day era in shows at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Performing is Bud Forest & His String of Pearls. "USO in the Mood" will also be staged on the beach by Caroline Street downtown at 7:45 p.m., which is also the staging ground for another fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. Call (410) 289-2800.
The Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster has festivities Monday from noon until the culminating fireworks at 9:30 p.m. There are old-fashioned games like a three-legged race, volleyball marathon, crafts, live entertainment, a tea party in the flower and herb garden, and museum-related demonstrations. Admission to the museum grounds for this event is $3 for adults, $2 for youths ages 12 to 18 and seniors 60 and over, and free for youngsters under 12. Call (410) 848-7775.
In Frederick, Baker Park at W. Second and North Bentz streets is the location Monday for the events running from noon until fireworks go off around 9:30 p.m. The free festivities include children's activities, a pool party, a chili- and hot pepper-eating contest, crafts, pony rides and a petting zoo. Among the performers in the evening are Angie Miller, Deanna Bogart and Nils Lofgren. Call (800) 999-3613.
Out in Washington County, the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg is the site for a free outdoor concert by the Maryland Symphony Orchestra Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Conductor Barry Tuckwell leads a program of patriotic and popular numbers, including the seasonally obligatory "1812 Overture." Cannon fire will accompany the fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Call (301) 797-4000.
And in Garrett County, you can enjoy boating Monday at Broadford Lake Park, off Route 135, then watch fireworks at dusk. Admission is $3 per car, $1 for walk-ins. Call (301) 334-9222.