On behalf of the Town of Bel Air and the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, I would like to thank the citizens of greater Bel Air for their attendance and enthusiasm at the Sunday, Dec. 3, Town of Bel Air Christmas Parade and Celebration.
This year’s weather was THE BEST! I don’t know how much that affected things, but it surely helped attract one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen in downtown Bel Air (even with a Ravens home game happening at the same time!), and I’ve run almost 40 parades through the downtown area. The clear skies, lack of wind and warm sun through sunset time also allowed us to extend the Shamrock Park phase of the event a few minutes longer than last year, which was fun!
My wife and I walked the route just behind the end of the parade and we were astounded at the size of the crowds. I was particularly pleased to see so many children enjoying the sights and sounds. The joy on the faces of the kids and families reflected the values of our community and the love we all have for this season. We are lucky to live in such an area, and to have such citizens turn out. Bel Air is indeed a wonderful, family-friendly place, and it's events like this that make that clearly apparent to all.
The parade includes many different kinds of units, from marching bands to motorcycles and horses, and this year’s parade included many very elaborate and creative floats, but overall the Bel Air Christmas Parade is of, for and all about KIDS. Hundreds — THOUSANDS — of kids aged from toddlers through teenagers participated in it. To see their commitment, organization, dedication and wonderful good spirits made me, for one, very, very optimistic about the future of our community and of our nation. And I want to thank their parents and families for supporting these wonderful kids!
Special thanks must go to the many hard-working volunteers who put the entire celebration together, especially including our parade marshals Annette Blum, Aaron Cahall, Trish Heidenreich, Alex Krowzow, Sandy Saunders, Patti Sterling and David Williams, plus a very hard-working group of wonderful students from Bel Air High School, members of the National Honor Society under the supervision of Mrs. Kelly Blackburn: Kelly Antoshak, Noah Beyers, Ryan Chan, Arianna Dramis, Jared Haas, Carly Merrill, Julianna Parker, Sarah Quinn, Bryce Robertson, Zack Severino, Jenna Signorelli, Gabby Spires, Erik Uebelacker and Emily Weichert.
Several of these excellent young people were already experienced Christmas parade marshals, and their savoir-faire really helped. All these students showed their high intelligence and leadership abilities as they did a fantastic job coping with our VERY chaotic and stressful staging! It takes a lot of people to keep such a parade in order, and all these volunteers worked beautifully together. Every single unit was present and deployed in the correct order — thanks to these marshals!
The Parade Business Sponsor Banners were carried by members of Cub Scout Pack 777, based at Bel Air United Methodist Church, organized by Hope Yamagata, who absolutely excelled at a very complex task. Thanks again, Hope!
The celebration was supported by Town of Bel Air Commissioners Mayor Susan Burdette (Chairman), Patrick Richards, Brendan Hopkins, Philip Einhorn and Amy Chmielewski, who led off the parade following Chief of Police Charles Moore. I also must thank the Town of Bel Air Administration, led by Town Manager L. Jesse Bane, for its support, and especially Bel Air Director of Economic Development Trish Heidenreich and her staff members Angela Robertson, Patti Sterling and Sandy Saunders. Thanks also to Town of Bel Air Director of Public Works Stephen Kline and his hard-working crew, led by Jake Maglov and Fred Murillo, who seemed to be anywhere anything was needed.
The 2017 Bel Air Christmas Parade was sponsored by local businesses including Buontempo Brothers Pizzeria/Tower Restaurant, Corbin Fuel Company, Cramer & Noorani Orthodontics, Harford Mutual Insurance Company, Jones Junction, Klein’s ShopRite of Harford County, Music Land, Safe Harbors Travel, Sunny Day Cafe and Zips Dry Cleaners. The bonfire was built and managed by Jay van Deusen with the help of Bel Air Public Works. Dina Boebel and Trish Heidenreich decorated the Reviewing Stand. Candy canes were given out Dina Boebel and her family of Elves. Country Britches Store on Main Street kindly allowed the parade to use its rooms for "costumed character" changing!
I also need to thank the hard-working members of the Bel Air Downtown Alliance, led by Executive Director Christine McPherson and her assistants Amber Pinder and Jennifer Falcone, who managed matters in Shamrock Park, where scads of folks enjoyed music, hot chocolate and cookies, and who were responsible for the budgeting of the entire event.
The entire celebration could not have been done without the unflinching support and assistance of the Town of Bel Air Police Department, and especially Police Chief Charles Moore and Deputy Chief Richard Peschek.
At the parade reviewing stand, our parade judges were Judges Yolanda Curtin, Mimi Cooper, David Carey and Delegate Susan McComas, assisted by Trish Heidenreich. Tracy Hart from FM 104.7 did a wonderful job narrating the proceedings. The fabulous early entertainment was provided by the Route 66 Band, whose spirited and upbeat music really made Main Street into a "Winter Carnival"!
Participants in the parade included in addition to the above (in alphabetical order): a 1964 Ford Galaxy 500, 20th CBRNE Command APG, AFC Storm Travel Soccer “Winter Storm,” America in Miniature, Applause of Bel Air, Baltimore Bernese Mountain Dogs, Benchfield Farms, Brownie Troops 1639, 1822, 2050 and 4823, Buffalo Wild Wings’ “Jester the Buffalo,” Buontempo Brothers Restaurant Mini-Car and Costumed Characters, Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, Children's Manor Montessori School and Christ Our King Co-Op Preschool.
Other particpants included Cub Scout packs 313, 777, 807, 808, 830 and 865, Dance With Me School of Dance, Emmorton Rec Softball, Fallston Girl Scout Community, Forest Hill Nursery School, Frosty the Snowman, Girl Scouts Daisy Scouts Troops 946, 2495 and 2823, Girl Scouts of Central Maryland Service Units 674 and 678, Girl Scouts Troops 146, 250, 5296 and 5983, The Grinch, Harford County Fire Prevention Ambassadors Little Miss Harford County Savannah Norstrand, Junior Miss Harford County Fire Prevention Allyson Rowe, Miss Harford County Fire Prevention Tallin Pucher and Harford County Little Fire Chief Jackson Jewett, Harford County Humane Society, Harford County School Nutrition Association, Heidi Weaver Home Group & Harford FC United Soccer, the Hogs and Heroes Foundation, the Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School Girl Scouts Cluster and Hoppin' Hawks Jump Rope Squad.
Also joining in the fun were Horse Power Farm, Klein’s ShopRite of Harford County, The Living Christmas Tree, The MAGIC CONTINUES Character Company, The Marine Corps League, Young Marines of Jarrettsville & Toys For Tots Train, McGruff the Crime Dog and the Bel Air Police Explorers, Michael Rosman's “The Greatest Snow on Earth!”, Miss Bel Air 2017 Natalie Brosh, Miss Maryland 2017 Kathleen Masek, Miss Maryland’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Chloe Wildman. Miss Maryland Teen USA 2017 Caleigh Shade, Miss Maryland USA 2017 Brittinay Nicolette, "Mr. Tree" Tommy Liberto, North Harford Rec. Council Gymnastics, Power Ranger, Ripcord the IronBird Eagle, Santa & Mrs. Santa, Silver Eagle Cloggers, Smash Hits WHGM Radio, Society of Italian American Businessmen, Super Mario & Princess Peach, SuperNova Dance Company, Twirl-Tas-Tix & Relévé Dance, Upper Cross Roads Baptist Church and the US TaeKwonDo Academy.
Special thanks also to our local high school bands: the Bel Air High School Marching Bobcats, the C. Milton Wright High School Marching Mustangs, the Edgewood High School Marching Rams , the Fallston High School Marching Cougars, the Harford Technical High School Marching Cobras, the John Carroll School Patriots, the Joppatowne High School Marching Mariners, the North Harford High School Marching Hawks and the Patterson Mill High School Marching Huskies. Having nine local bands was a record for this parade, I believe!
The judges determined the following awards for the parade: 1st Place: Dance with Me School of Dance of Bel Air; 2nd Place: Cub Scout Pack 313 of Bel Air; Third Place: Girl Scouts Troop 5296 of Forest Hill; 1st Honorable Mention: Daisy Scouts Troop 2823 from Forest Lakes; 2nd Honorable Mention: the Patterson Mill High School Marching Huskies Band.
At Shamrock Park, after the parade, Master of Ceremonies Jim McMahan led the crowd in Christmas Carols, accompanied by a wonderful performance by the Bel Air Community Band, led by Scott Sharnetzka, and the "Just Having Fun Singers," ably assisted by our very special guest Major General Randy Taylor, Commandant of APG. At 4:55 pm, there was the traditional "tree lighting," created by the Town of Bel Air Public Works Department.
On a personal note, I want to thank the Town of Bel Air for having the heart and sensitivity to mount such a celebration. The Holiday Season (whether one celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, or any other holiday) is one of joy, and is the time to celebrate life and family, and to give to charity and to the community. It is the season of hope, birth and rebirth, and of the fellowship of humankind. As the days grow dark and cold, we illuminate and warm our community and our lives by the love we share through events like this. We look forward to the return of light, warmth and growth, both physical and spiritual, in the New Year, and we pray for peace for us, for our community, and for all humanity.
Yours most sincerely,
Bel Air Christmas Celebration 2017