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Kite Festival, Arbor Day, farmers market opening highlight busy Saturday in Bel Air

A big Saturday is on tap for the Town of Bel Air headlined by the annual Kite Festival.

Saturday will also mark the town’s observance of Arbor Day, the season’s opening of the Bel Air Farmers Market and a special ceremony and presentation at Liriodendron to recognize Dr. Howard Kelly’s efforts to aid in the rehabilitation of wounded World War I soldiers.

Kite Festival

The Bel Air Kite Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rockfield Park, with a rain date of Sunday, April 15.

New this year, attendees are asked to park for free at the downtown parking garage on Saturday and take free shuttle buses for the short ride to Rockfield Park, which does not have enough onsite parking to accommodate the expected crowd.

This will be the 13th year for the festival, which features family fun for kids of all ages. Affordable food will be available at the park.

The Kite Festival is sponsored by the Town of Bel Air and APG Federal Credit Union, the latter which will be providing 750 free kites available to participants while supplies last.

Town Director of Administration Michael Krantz, who coordinates the festival, said they gave out 500 free kites last year, and APG Federal Credit Union is increasing the supply to 750 kites because of the event’s popularity.

The Board of Town Commissioners has proclaimed Saturday to be Kite Day in Bel Air and encourages all residents to “go fly a kite!”

Arbor Day and Farmers Market

The Bel Air Farmers Market opens for the 43rd season on Saturday at the parking lot of the Mary E.W. Risteau District Court Building off of Bond and Thomas streets.

Market hours are 7 to 11 a.m. each Saturday through Nov. 17 and, as always, all varieties of locally grown and produced farm products will be for sale.

The town also observes Arbor Day on Saturday, and the Bel Air Tree Committee will be giving away free trees for planting at the farmers market while supplies last.

The Tree Committee sponsors Arbor Day with the assistance of the Forest Conservancy District Board for Harford County, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service and the Harford County Master Gardeners.

At the most recent town meeting on April 2, the town board proclaimed Saturday Arbor Day in Bel Air, presenting the proclamation to Planning Director Kevin Small in recognition of his and his department’s efforts and those of the Tree Committee.

“The quality of urban tree canopy provides many benefits including improving water quality, saving energy, reducing air pollution and enhancing property values,” the proclamation states. “Providing opportunities to enhance the urban tree canopy is the goal for Arbor Day 2018.”

Liriodendron program

The historic Liriodendron Mansion will host a commemorative service, beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, to honor those who served in the Great War and to recognize Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly and his family’s contribution to the recovery and rehabilitation of soldiers who returned from the front.

Kelly was a co-founder of Johns Hopkins Hospital and built Liriodendron as a summer home for his family. Liriodendron is owned by the Harford County government and operated by the nonprofit Liriodendron Foundation as a museum and meeting venue.

In April 1918, Kelly donated use of 160 acres he owned along the Severn River in Anne Arundel County to be used as a camp for returning soldiers who had been released from a hospital at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, so they could continue to recuperate in a peaceful, waterfront location.

According to the Maryland State Archives, Fort McHenry was opened as a U.S. Army General Hospital No. 2 in the summer of 1917 under the command of Maj. (and later Lt. Col.) Harry S. Purnell, for whom the camp on the Severn “for convalescent sick and overseas solders” would be named.

Kelly was among several local physicians who administered to the wounded at Fort McHenry, according to the archives.

In October 1918, a team of 60 carpenters was dispatched from Fort McHenry to Camp Purnell to erect a frame building to be used for recreation and other general purposes at the camp, according to a copy of the hospital newsletter.

“Recognizing the crowded conditions at Fort McHenry, Dr. Kelly and his family decided to donate use of the family’s land on the Severn River to the Army,” Liriodendron Foundation President and Harford County Councilman James McMahan explained. “There, the less severely wounded could rest and recuperate swimming and fishing while the hospital could serve the more seriously injured.”

"As close as we can tell, the gift was made on or about April 14, 1918, so the day we chose will be the 100th anniversary,” McMahan said.

Saturday’s program, which is free and open to the public, will feature guest speakers, a color guard, singing of period songs and light refreshments.

Jon Streett, a Fallston resident, who grew up near the Kelly mansion and was friendly with Kelly’s late son, Friedrich “Fritz” Kelly, will speak about Howard Kelly’s contributions to the war effort.

Various American Legion and VFW posts in Harford County have been contacted to have a representative group in attendance, according to McMahan, who also said Aberdeen Proving Ground Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor “accepted an invitation to salute the veterans on the 14th.”

Military retirees are urged to wear their uniforms for the occasion and the event has been cleared with DOD for active duty personnel to attend as well, McMahan said.

"What a great opportunity to share a bit of old time patriotism with your family at this free event," McMahan said. “The whole community is invited.”

Liriodendron is at 502 W. Gordon St. in Bel Air. For more information, visit info@liriodendron.com.

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