Havre de Grace will honor its hometown heroes and the United States' 241st birthday this weekend with a slew of Independence Day festivities and some significant changes from prior years' celebrations.
"We're very excited to do this event this year and honor our hometown heroes," Christy Silverstein, chair of the city's Independence Day Commission, said Wednesday.
Silverstein noted "things are coming together really quickly" as the commission makes its final preparations.
This year is the first that the Independence Day Commission, appointed by Mayor Bill Martin with the consent of the city council, has planned and coordinated the community's annual Independence Day events. Previously, a volunteer, non-profit committee had planned and run the celebration largely independent of city government.
The new commission is putting on the traditional parade Sunday and also is hosting new events such as a downtown block party and concert along the waterfront.
The annual fireworks show will still happen, although the fireworks will be shot from a barge in the Susquehanna River instead of the usual spot, Tydings Island.
The parade, block party, concert — headlined by the Amish Outlaws — and fireworks are all scheduled for Sunday.
All events are free, but the Amish Outlaws concert tickets had to be reserved in advance, and all 1,500 had been claimed as of Wednesday, according to Silverstein.
"We have enough to keep you busy the whole day," Silverstein said. "Celebrate our independence and our hometown heroes all at the same time; come spend the day in Havre de Grace."
The traditional carnival, which typically ran the week leading up to the parade and fireworks, will not be held this year, as the commission could not secure an operator for the first week of July.
For many years, the carnival was a major fund-raising vehicle to support other Independence Day events. Commission members are planning to hold a carnival around Labor Day weekend in September, according to the commission's website, http://www.havredegracejuly4.org.
The seven-person commission was created by the mayor late last summer, following the resignation of members of the nonprofit Havre de Grace Independence Celebration Inc. en masse after nearly 30 years of raising money and coordinating the events.
"We've had a lot of community support," said Silverstein, citing organizations that have provided assistance such as local chapters of the American Legion, the VFW, the Lions Club and the Soroptimist Club.
This year's theme is "Hometown Heroes," to honor the veterans and active-duty members of the military who call Havre de Grace home.
The celebration kicks off Saturday with the Hometown Heroes Breakfast, hosted by Weedon Elliott VFW Post 8126 at the Havre de Grace Community Center at 100 Lagaret Lane.
The breakfast runs from 8 to 11 a.m. Tickets are $8, and they are available through the Havre de Grace Visitor Center, according to the commission website.
The parade starts at 2 p.m. Sunday and runs along its usual route from Union Avenue and Warren Street, along Union and ending at Tydings Memorial Park.
Spectators cannot claim their spots along the route any earlier than 8 a.m. Any items set up before then will be removed by the Havre de Grace Police Department, according to the commission website.
Silverstein noted there will be "grandstand-style seating," with about 200 seats, set up at Pennington and Union Avenues.
"That will help accommodate people that otherwise might not be able to get a spot," she said.
The block party begins at 4 p.m. Sunday along North Washington Street between Congress Avenue and St. John Street. Washington will be closed in that area for the party, which will include music and vendors.
The Amish Outlaws concert begins at 7 p.m. — gates open at 5 p.m., according to the website.
Food and alcoholic beverages will be for sale, although patrons cannot bring alcohol outside the park. Beer sales end at 9 p.m., according to the website.
The fireworks begin around 9:15 p.m. The barge will be anchored off Concord Point, and organizers expect visitors will be able to see the show all along the city's riverfront.
Mayor Martin has declared the week of July 1-8 Hometown Heroes Week in Havre de Grace.
The mayor presented proclamations to Bob Schmidt, of the VFW post; Buddy Lilly, commander of Joseph L. Davis American Legion Post 47; and parade grand marshal, Noble Mentzer, during the June 19 City Council meeting.
"The people that I know that are heroes are the ones that didn't come back," Lilly said during the presentation.