Though it rained in fits and starts from daylight to dark, spectators packed Baltimore's Inner Harbor last night for a rousing fireworks show.
A family from South Dakota decked out in rain ponchos, a Harford County grandmother, and a man from Long Island, N.Y., who said his friend told him the fireworks in Baltimore are "better than Disney World," all staked their claim to a spot on the waterfront for the Fourth of July display.
Although rain stopped just before the fireworks began, some in the crowd held open umbrellas and most avoided sitting on damp ground.
Throughout Maryland yesterday, people celebrated the nation's independence at cookouts and parades and by viewing the obligatory flashes of colors across the night sky.
"I love fireworks, I always have, no matter where I go and see them," said Paul Thompson of Rosedale, who watched the show at the Inner Harbor last night.
Before the fireworks began, the Naval Academy Band played as spectators jockeyed for seats along the promenade. As sprinkles turned to a downpour, revelers dispersed, only to reappear when the rain subsided.
Jay Burchell of Richmond, Va., who is celebrating his 34th wedding anniversary with his wife, Joanne, today, said they came to Baltimore to watch the fireworks for "the fanfare of the Inner Harbor."
Erma Protokowicz, a Harford County grandmother, dined on seafood with her family before finding prime-viewing seats. But a spurt of rain forced them to flee. Upon their return, the seats were gone, but they were determined to stay for the show.
"We were part of the herd - everyone running in to get out of the rain," she said.
Earlier in the day, parades stepped off across Maryland.
In Towson, the Fourth of July parade ritual became more elaborate for the families of Woodbine Terrace.
The night before yesterday's big Towson parade, the Glikin family turned the west Towson cul-de-sac of about a dozen identical brick colonials into a movie theater and projected High School Musical II onto a white sheet for the kids.
Meanwhile, neighbor A.J. Adams, 39, hammered a decoupaged black-and-white "Woodbine Terrace" sign into the grass at a new parade-viewing location for the group of about 30 - under the shade of a leafy tree on West Allegheny Avenue. A.J.'s wife, Dina, served everyone banana bread and doughnuts for breakfast there yesterday morning.
Woodbine Terrace's preparations for yesterday's parade in Towson rivaled those of celebrants in Columbia and Catonsville, where residents are known for claiming prime-viewing spots almost a week in advance by chaining together plastic chairs and blocking off swaths of grass with crime-scene tape.
Josh Glikin, 37, said the extra effort to get a good view of the Towson parade was worth it. The Woodbine Terrace residents' new location was far superior to their previous spot at Allegheny and Bosley avenues.
"At the corner, everyone stops marching, dancing and singing," he said. "We set up down there for years, and the groups were all tired from coming up the hill. Now we're downhill a little more, where it's shady."
Eric and Lauren Alperstein of Towson also planned ahead. The family put blankets down the night before and then erected a large canopy yesterday on Allegheny Avenue about a block east of the Woodbine Terrace group.
The shade allowed Eric Alperstein to work on his laptop during the parade, while protecting Lauren and their four boys, ages 17 to 8, from the sun and possible rain.
"I was scared people were going to get mad at us, but no one has said anything," Lauren Alperstein, 38, said of the canopy. Eric's "on call for work, but he won't miss the parade. And I don't think my kids will ever grow old of it," she said.
Twins Charles and Thomas Wit, 2, are just old enough to understand the concept of a parade. Both frantically waved American flags during the procession of firetrucks, bands, motorcycles, antique cars, military veterans and Grand Marshal "Chef Duff" Goldman and his gang from Charm City Cakes.
Charles stopped whipping around his flag only to rave about the fire engines, his favorite part. "They've been talking about the parade for weeks," said their mother, Patti Wit of Lutherville. "And they woke up this morning and said, 'Is it parade day?'"
For Harvey Hough and Victoria Sigismondi of Owings Mills, the fireworks at the Inner Harbor provided the backdrop for a memorable moment.
As the finale splashed across the sky, Hough proposed to his girlfriend of six years.
"What more could you ask for?," said Sigismondi. "Baltimore City, fireworks and a proposal."