You don't have to go far in Harford County to celebrate the Fourth of July, with festivities Saturday in Bel Air and Kingsville and Sunday in Havre de Grace and Edgewood.
All four celebrations feature good, old-fashioned hometown parades, their organizers say, which is what makes them great.
"It's a little community parade. We try to highlight kids in the community, whether it's baseball or football or Scouts," Sue Heselton, who has been organizing the Edgewood-Joppatowne parade for the last several years, said. "And it's neighbors seeing neighbors. Everyone has been so good about it."
There will be a variety of other activities, too, such as a day packed with traditional 4th-themed events in Bel Air, concerts in Havre de Grace and Edgewood and, of course, no Independence Day festivities would be complete without fireworks, which both Bel Air and Havre de Grace will have during the evening of their respective celebrations.
Bel Air has been celebrating America's birthday as a community for years.
"The 4th of July is not only the birthday of our country, but it also celebrates our collective journeys as citizens of the United States of America, and it incorporates our hopes and dreams for the future," Mike Blum, chairman of Bel Air's parade, said. "Therefore, nothing can be more wonderful than to celebrate – together – everything that is good and great about this country of ours, at a gigantic old-fashioned 4th of July series of patriotic events, culminating in a parade and fireworks."
Kingsville's parade, which this year will feature a return of a flyover by the Maryland National Guard, is a "great small town community parade," organizer Linda Alexander said.
"It's just a good wholesome parade and people like it, the simplicity of it, the participation and the local people," Alexander said. "Our grand marshals are local, and there are volunteers in the community who do a lot to support the committee."
Carolyn Narvell, who's been helping plan Havre de Grace's events for 30 years, said the city's celebration is "a very big deal in Havre de Grace," and people plan for it years in advance.
"Everywhere you look, there's a backyard barbecue going on, and it's just a great family day, and that's what's kept me doing this for 30 years," Narvell said.
All day in Bel Air
Bel Air's festivities begin bright and early July 4 with a flag-raising at 6:45 a.m. at Bel Air High School featuring Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 and American Legion Post 39.
Flags will be raised to kick off the events at each of the other locations: Rockfield Park at 7:45, Hays House at 8:45, Shamrock Park at 8:45 and Bel Air Elementary at 11 a.m.
The blueberry pancake and sausage breakfast will be from 7 to 11 a.m. at Bel Air High. Cost is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10.
Horseshoe pitching begins at 8:30 a.m. at Rockfield Park, with tours of the Hays House beginning at 9 a.m. Faces will be painted for free from 9 a.m. to noon at Shamrock Park.
The Turtle Derby begins at 9 a.m. in Shamrock Park. Each entrant can have one turtle, and no snappers are allowed.
Each entrant in the Great Bel Air Frog Jumping Contest, which begins at 10 a.m., is also allowed one frog.
The Turtle Derby and frog-jumping contest have been criticized in recent years for being cruel to animals, so even organizers are encouraging participants to take proper care of their reptiles – in comfortable, cool, covered boxes to keep the sun off them.
At Bel Air Elementary School's parking lot is the bike rodeo at 11 a.m.; trophies will be awarded for best decorated boys and girls bike and awards for ages 5 and younger, 6 to 8, 9-10 and 11-13.
Uncle Sam Says starts at 11 a.m. in Shamrock Park with prizes for ages 5-7, 8-10, 11-13 and 14 to adult. The watermelon-eating contest follows at 11:30, with prizes for 6 and younger, 7-10, 11-16 and 17-adult.
The festivities take a break until the parade starts at 6 p.m. The parade route is reversed this year, starting at Idlewild and South Main and heading north to the intersection of East Gordon and North Main streets.
This year's theme is "An Olde-Fashioned Fourth of July" and the parade, like the others, will feature high school and other bands, community service groups, politicians and a host of other participants.
The fireworks, launched from Rockfield Park, will begin around 9:30 p.m. after the sun sets.
Kingsville features flyover
The Greater Kingsville Civic Association Inc. and the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company are sponsoring the 35th consecutive year of the Kingsville Independence Day Parade.
Returning to kick off the parade this year will be the military flyover, which has been absent in recent years because of sequestration, Alexander said.
"It's very, very exciting to see it, coupled with the national anthem, I tell you, it will bring tears to your eyes," she said.
Pre-parade music and celebration, sponsored by Reds and PNC Bank, beings at 10 a.m. Saturday at the judges viewing stand. The hour before the parade begins includes entertainment from Buttons the Clown, Baltimore City Pipe Band, the Oriole Bird, Upper Falls Dance Academy, Releve Dance & TwirlTasTix Baton and music presentation by Jim Frank, keyboard and Sam Deacon, electric guitar.
The parade will kick off at 10:50 a.m. at the Kingsville Volunteer Fire Company on Bellvue Avenue (formation starts 9:30 a.m.) proceed down Bradshaw Road to Jerusalem Road and finish at St. Paul's Lutheran Church. (Bradshaw and Jerusalem roads will be closed at 9:50 a.m.) Check http://www.kingsvilleparade.org for parade details and weather-related updates.
Opening ceremonies presided over by Master of Ceremonies Bruce McCubbin, will be held at the judges viewing stand at 11 a.m. Christina Massimei will sing the national anthem to music from the John Carroll School Band led by Marc Bolden. The RDECOM Color Guard on behalf of Team APG will present the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance, led by a representative of the Maryland Army National Guard.
The lineup of bands include Westminster Municipal, John Carroll School, Baltimore City Pipe Band, Havre de Grace High School, Edgewood High School, C. Milton Wright High School, Joppatowne High School, Fallston High School and Patterson Mill High School, along with other community entries following this year's theme, "Proud to Be An American."
The 2015 grand marshals are Stephanie and Frank Duchacek, lifetime Kingsville residents who are involved in the community. This year's theme winner of $100 is Kelsey Stelmack, a third-grader from St. Stephen School, who also will be riding in the parade.
"It's become quite popular over the last several years. It's being well attended because people like to see the effort a small town puts together," Alexander said.
Biggest event in HdG
Charlie Mike, a lifelong Havre de Grace resident, has spent the past 30 years helping pull off one of the largest community events in Harford County, the annual Havre de Grace Independence Day celebration that also draws people from all over to the city:
This year's celebration begins Wednesday with the annual carnival in Tydings Park. The carnival runs through Sunday, July 5, the culmination of the celebration that includes a massive parade along the tree-lined Union Avenue, a concert in the park and a fireworks show.
Mike estimated a combined 50,000 people visit the city for all of the events.
"This event is the biggest in Havre de Grace," Mike said of the July 5 carnival, parade, concert and fireworks show. "It's one of the biggest events in Harford County, if not the biggest single-day event."
Mike began helping with the planning and organizing of the parade in 1985. The events are put on by the Havre de Grace independence Celebration Inc., a nonprofit organization staffed by a nine-member full-time committee that works with multiple donors and community volunteers.
Mike, who has been president of the committee since 2000, said the full-time members are unpaid volunteers.
Other members include Vice President Dennis Bolen, Treasurer Debbie Ault, Secretary Jackie Hoover, Carolyn Narvell, husband and wife, Garrett and Doris Lyttle, and husband and wife, Dave and Marilyn Brown.
"We're fortunate; we have a good committee," Narvell, who has been a member since 1987, said. "We work well together, and we always welcome new members, of course, because it's a very big job."
The committee became incorporated in 1989, which Mike said helps members with the year-round task of raising funds.
Mike said it costs $70,000 to $75,000 to put on all of the events each year. About $30,000 comes from the carnival, and the rest is raised from Havre de Grace residents who give contributions ranging from $5 to $200, a few fundraisers done in partnership with area restaurants and larger donations from the business community.
"It is the most looked forward to event of the year," Mike said.
Narvell listed several of the major contributors, such as the City of Havre de Grace, which provides in-kind police and public works support, civic groups such as the Lions Club, private citizens and the Havre de Grace-based WXCY-FM country music radio station.
Narvell said the station provides drive-time advertising to large donors, and smaller donors can get their names mentioned on the radio.
"We're really indebted to WXCY," she said.
Mike also highlighted the Havre de Grace city and public safety agencies which support the celebration.
"We couldn't do what we do without the group effort of the Havre de Grace DPW, the Police Department, the Susquehanna Hose Company and the Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps," Mike said.
A full list of contributors can be found on the committee's website, http://www.havredegracejuly4.org, along with more information about the events and a schedule.
Narvell coordinates the bands for the parade, including high school marching bands, the Baltimore Ravens marching band, drum and bugle corps and bagpipers.
"The bands and the floats, and things like that, make the parade," she said.
Mike said bands not only come from Havre de Grace and Harford County, they also are drawn from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York and various Midwestern states.
Parade day is usually held on a weekend closest to the July 4 holiday, which Mike and Narvell noted makes the Havre de Grace celebration a draw for bands and other parade participants who can take their time and not rush off to another July 4 event.
In Harford County, major July 4 parades are also held in Bel Air and Joppatowne/Edgewood.
"We choose to have it on the weekend day closest to the Fourth, and we feel we do better because the bands are not tired and they're willing to come," Narvell said.
Narvell said the parade usually has 90 to 100 units, or participants, and it lasts up to two-and-a-half hours.
This year's parade begins at 2 p.m. and follows a route from the north end of Union Avenue at Legion Square to the south end of Union Avenue at Tydings Park.
The concert, featuring the band Head Rush, begins at 7 p.m. in the City Yacht Basin, and the fireworks show begins around 9:30 p.m.
There's no admission for the parade, concert or fireworks.
The carnival is open from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 4 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets for rides are $1.50 each, or $35 for a 30-ticket sheet and $55 for a sheet of 50 tickets. Wristbands for unlimited rides can be purchased for $24 Wednesday through Saturday and $25 on Sunday.
Coupons to save $4 on wristbands Wednesday and Thursday are available at the Havre de Grace Activity Center, Frank's Pizza and the Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce, as well as other local businesses, according to the Independence Day Celebration website.
Edgewood parade, concert
It's an odd-numbered year and that means the July 4th celebration is back in Edgewood after being in Joppatowne last year.
"Way back when, Edgewood and Joppatowne were pretty much a community to itself," Heselton, a former Harford County Council member, said. "The Route 40 Business Association was a group, then the county came along and started the community councils in Joppatowne and in Edgewood and you started to see a split. Many people were looking for a way to get the communities back together."
So eight years ago, Edgewood and Joppatowne began a joint July 4th celebration that has grown every year.
New this year, rather than having a grand marshal, the parade will be led by "a group that works in the community to better our community," Heselton said.
Epic Center, an outreach center of Mountain Christian Church. will follow the color guard.
Other units in the parade, which lasts about an hour, include high school bands, fraternities, politicians, Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company, churches, the library, Lions Clubs and a drum and bugle corps from northern Harford.
The parade begins at 6 p.m. at the Edgewood Boys and Girls Club. It goes down Fern Drive to Hanson Road, past the judging stand in front of the library at Hanson and Route 755, turns right onto Hornbeam, right on Rosewood, left on 755 and right on Cedar Lane to get back to the Boys and Girls Clubs.
After the parade is a concert from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in Flying Point Park featuring Steel Pandemic, a woman's group from Harford County playing steel drums.