Peyton Greiner wore her first-place blue ribbon, earned by winning Bel Air’s annual Fourth of July water balloon contest in Shamrock Park, as she, her family and their friends gathered around the Kona Ice truck parked along Lee Way late Wednesday morning.
“I felt excited,” Peyton, 10, of Bel Air, said. She would go on to take third place in her age group at the bicycle rodeo in the Bel Air Elementary School parking lot later in the day.
“The kids had a lot of fun decorating their bikes the night before,” Peyton’s father, Tim Greiner, 37, said. “It helps get them in the spirit for the Fourth for the day.”
The bike rodeo and water balloon contest were part of a slate of family events held around town Wednesday morning. Participants tossed balloons to each other, and they took a step back after each successful balloon toss, increasing the distance and the likelihood of the balloon breaking and soaking the contestant.
Peyton said she plays softball, often first base. She was in the park with her parents, Tim and Ashley Greiner, brother, Kolby, 6, and Sydney, 3. Friends of the Greiner family joined them.
“We come every year with the kids,” Ashley Greiner, 36, said. “It’s a good time; they put on a good event here.”
All of Bel Air’s Fourth of July events, including the evening parade along Main Street downtown and the fireworks show at night, are coordinated by The Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc. with the support of local government entities, civic organizations and multiple volunteers.
“I love to see children getting all excited about the Fourth of July, and I hope we’re able to provide them with some nice memories,” Michael Blum, the parade chair and vice president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, said between the costume contest and Uncle Sam Says competition, both in Shamrock Park and both led by Blum.
The watermelon-eating contest, another Bel Air July 4th tradition, was also held in the park.
Tim Greiner grew up in Bel Air and attended the July 4th events as a child. He and his wife, who grew up in Fallston and also attended Bel Air’s July 4th events, remember the annual turtle races and frog-jumping contests.
The frog and turtle competitions had been part of the town’s holiday celebration for at least 30 years, but they ended after the 2015 festivities because of updated Maryland Department of Natural Resources regulations meant to protect amphibians and reptiles from diseases.
The water balloon toss and costume contest were instituted in their place starting in 2016.
“I love it,” Ashley Greiner said of the family events. “Because I hope that it builds memories for [my children], and I hope they can continue one day with their own families.”
About 15 adults and children participated in the patriotic costume contest, and eight to nine more people took part in the general costume contest, according to Blum.
Lisa Andrews, 8, of Bel Air, won first place in the patriotic costume contest dressed as a patriotic bunny. Her costume included a large, white, bunny head.
“I was the true winner of the contest and it really felt exciting,” Lisa said. “I knew I was going to win first place because I just thought [the costume] was a good idea.”
Her sister Marissa, 5, was a patriotic Minnie Mouse, and Lisa’s 3-year-old sister, Christina, was a patriotic Elsa, the main character from the hit Disney film “Frozen.”
“All of my daughters love the costume contest,” their mother, Jennifer Andrews, said. She said her children were going to be in the parade on their local library’s float.
Andrews said the idea for Lisa’s costume, involving the bunny head, was “something different, something that would stand out.”
The family participates every year, Jennifer Andrews said, and Christina, won third place as a baby.
“This is probably one of our favorite events,” she said. “The kids just love dressing up.”
Other July 4th events around town included flag-raising ceremonies, a horseshoe pitching contest at Rockfield Park, tours of the Hays House Museum on Kenmore Avenue, and a pancake and sausage breakfast, featuring blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes at Bel Air High School.
The breakfast was run by the Bel Air High School Athletic Booster Club for the third consecutive year. The booster club took over in 2016 from the Bel Air Lions Club, had run the event since 1995.
“This has been our easiest year because we had so much volunteer help,” said Melissa Allen, who serves as membership coordinator for the club and handles concessions during games.
Her husband, Terry Allen, is the club’s president. He supervised the pancake cooking on grills outside the school cafeteria while she supervised operations in the kitchen and dining area.
About 60 volunteers, including student-athletes from about every BAHS team, coaches and parents, participated, Terry Allen said.
Melissa Allen estimated 1,750 people had been served during the four-hour breakfast.
Organizers had purchased most of the supplies from Amrein Foods, of Joppa, which also supplies the concession stands, but local businesses also donated food and resources.
Wegmans donated syrup, ShopRite donated blueberries and chocolate chips, Box Hill Pizzeria donated orange juice and Suburban Propane donated fuel for the grills, according to the Allens.
The booster club raises money through initiatives such as the pancake breakfast to support student-athletes and coaches. Funds are used to help with things such as uniforms, equipment and training for coaches, according to Terry Allen.
The club also gives out five scholarships, for $500 each, every year. The club presented a check for $500, from funds it had raised the previous year, to the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Wednesday morning.
Terry Allen also praised Bel Air principal Gregory Komondor and athletic director Anthony Blackburn for their support of the breakfast and other booster club activities.
“They really work with us throughout the year,” Allen said.
Bicycle rodeo, K-9 demonstration
Children and parents gathered at Bel Air Elementary School on East Lee Street for the annual bicycle registration and rodeo, as well as a police dog demonstration. The events were coordinated by the Bel Air Police Department with support from their Auxiliary Police and the youth Explorer Post 9010.
“If they weren’t here, we couldn’t do it,” Officer First Class Rick Krause, the department’s Explorer post advisor and school resource officer for all Bel Air schools, said.
The Explorer program is open to youths ages 14 to 21, giving them experience with law enforcement training and preparation for careers in public safety, according to the Town of Bel Air website.
A bingo fundraiser for the Explorers is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 26, at the Bel Air Armory, according to Krause.
Town officers and youth Explorers worked with the children during the bike rodeo, during which they rode through obstacle courses, and gave out awards at the end. Many bikes had been decorated with patriotic themes.
Children also learned about bike safety, according to Krause.
There were an estimated 175 participants, including families from out of state, according to organizers.
Participants were treated to a brief K-9 demonstration. Officer Jonathan Kauffman and his police dog, Blitz, a German shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix, showed what happens when a dog is sent after a suspect who surrenders and what happens when the suspect does not.
Cpl. Alex McComas played the suspect. Blitz circled back to Kauffman on command when McComas put his hands up. The dog clamped his jaws on McComas’ arm, covered in a protective sleeve, when he did not surrender, and held on until Kauffman commanded him to let go.
Brothers Brody and Gage Sather, of Havre de Grace, took first place in their respective age divisions. Brody is 8 and Gage is 5.
“Riding in the woods,” Gage said when asked what he likes about bicycle riding. His older brother agreed.
The family rides along trails in Susquehanna State Park, the boys’ mother, Mindy Sather, said.
“It’s just a fun activity, to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and we can do it all together,” she said.
Todd Sather said his sons had gained “pride and respect” from their wins Wednesday.
“Pride in doing a good job and respect for others,” he said.