Letter to the Editor from Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc. Parade Director Mike Blum
To the Editor:
On behalf of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., I wish to thank the greater Bel Air and Harford County community for its support of and response to the 2016 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day parade.
Today, we believe that science and art and hard work can control all things — well, the one thing we can’t yet control is the weather! I worked on some of our July 4 daytime events (anyone for a round of “Uncle Sam Says”?), and everyone had a great time, so I was optimistic that perhaps what was forecast wouldn’t arrive, or not as soon as predicted. Alas, my hopes were washed away — but the parade went on undeterred!
Because, you know, we here in Bel Air are in the Parade Business. What rain? We have a special Town, and special citizens. We work all year to provide something patriotic, fun, exciting, moving, musical and memorable on July 4, and we deliver it. So our parades of course welcome drop-dead-beautiful weather (2009, 2014) — and are undaunted by horrible heat (1999, 2012) or steady rain (2007, 2016). I’ve been in charge of the parade since 1992 — there’s only one thing that’s set: we will deliver a memorable parade, worthy of our great country and community.
As we all know, the conditions on Monday, July 4, 2016, were certainly not ideal. But the people came to see the parade, and the vast majority of units who had signed up to be IN the parade showed up! Miss Bel Air rode the entire parade route sitting up in the open, beaming with pride, with only a tiara between her and the downpour! The bands played loudly, enthusiastically and wonderfully, growing louder and louder and happier and happier! The crowd was happy, well-behaved, enthusiastic and very supportive of the parade and the individual parade units.
Why should this be a surprise? It isn’t. The Bel Air July 4th Parade shows greater Bel Air to be the patriotic, fun and accessible family-oriented community it truly is. Many of the bands who had played one, two, three or FOUR other parades before arriving in Bel Air (and they were already wet before they got here) commented to me that “BEL AIR WAS THE BEST!” I believe that they were right. BEL AIR IS THE BEST!
Many people do not realize that the Bel Air July 4th Parade, as part of the overall Independence Day celebrations in Bel Air, is funded and run by an independent not-for-profit organization, the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., which has a vision of what the parade should be, and tries, to the best of its ability, to bring this vision to reality. The Committee relies on the contributions of individuals, businesses and municipalities — contributions of time, effort, and funds. We interact with Town government and law enforcement, and with the Town Department of Public Works. The Committee also takes into account the needs of the town itself, and the sheer practicality and logistics inherent in mounting such an event.
It is also surely significant that our Committee has received such support from our community for the parade, beginning with our parade sponsor for 2016, BGE, and our fireworks sponsor, Harford Mutual Insurance Company. Other major sponsors were Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant; The Festival at Bel Air Shopping Center; HAR-CO Credit Union; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association; Jones Junction; Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland; Plaza Ford; PNC Bank; and TD Bank.
Sponsoring organizations overall include the Bel Air Auxiliary Police Unit, the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, Inc., the Town of Bel Air, and the Lions Club of Bel Air. The Committee also received cash contributions from dozens of individuals and businesses, as listed in our program and on our web site (Letter to the Editor).
I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air Commissioners, led by Chairman Susan U. Burdette, and Vice Chair Robert M. Preston, and including Philip L. Einhorn, Brendan P. Hopkins and Patrick T. Richards; and also Town Administrator Jesse Bane, and Town Director of Human Resources and Administration Michael Krantz. I also wish to thank Chief of Police Charles Moore, Sergeant Robert Pfaff, the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Public Works personnel, led by Chuck Arnold and especially including Freddie Murillo, for their help.
There were many members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff’s Department who helped us mount the parade — directing traffic, shuttling buses, helping lead the horses through the back streets, sealing off roads, etc. I was completely impressed especially by the Sheriff’s Deputies, Town Police and Bel Air Volunteer Fire Personnel, who helped us at our most busy STAGING corner — MacPhail Road and S. Main Street — where EVERY parade unit and all the buses were checked in and routed to the staging area. Without any prior knowledge of our systems, these hard-working public safety personnel “got it” — they understood our system and helped us. Even though we had three parade marshals at that intersection (including me!), we couldn’t have done it without them, especially Bel Air Volunteer Fireman Charlie Walls! Bravo, Charlie!
We had wonderful bands in our parade, led by four of our local high schools. Their hard-working local band directors, who deserve high marks for turning their bands out in such great numbers and with such great spirit, in the midst of summer vacation on one hand and steady rain on the other! So, thanks to Mary Lynn Twentey of C. Milton Wright High School, Craig Harvey of Fallston High School, John Wojciechowski of Edgewood High School, and Cammie Jennings of the John Carroll School.
To the many businesses, churches, clubs, individuals and organizations who participated in the parade — you truly exemplify what it means to be public-spirited, patriotic and community-minded. The decorated floats, cars and marching units were many and colorful; your patience and spirit of fun shone brightly through the downpour, right until the end of the parade.
I want to also thank our elected public officials for their cooperation and spirited participation.
We all send our grateful appreciation to the residents and businesses on Idlewild and South Main Street, who kindly allowed us to marshal the parade in front of and all around them. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Harford Mutual Insurance Company, McComas Funeral Home and Klein’s ShopRite of North Main Street, which allowed us to use their parking lots to link up bands and buses after the parade. We also received tremendous support from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Command (CBRNE) of the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground, whose commander, Brigadier General William E. King, IV, walked in the parade.
Without all this support, we could not have held the parade.
In 2014, an Aegis editorial commented that “Commitment to volunteer work for the benefit of the community as a whole is vital to the fabric of American society.” The Aegis is right — it takes hours and hours of commitment and hard work from many, many volunteers to make a parade happen, and I need to send many, many thanks to our many, many volunteers. First, I thank our marvelous parade marshals, many of whom come from or are related to Boy Scout Troops 313 and 777 of Bel Air, which have for long been major supporters of this event: Steve Pugh, Dave Andrews, Aaron Cahall, Doug Schulte, Matt Schulte, Jack Deal, Chandra Krantz, Greg Cooper, Ron Eastridge, Bryce Knoll, Mike Knoll, Bill Smith, Lisa Williams, Annette Blum, Chris Wilcox, Nathan Wilcox, John McCutcheon, Bryan Rivers, Braxton Rivers, Matthew Yamagata, Jason Vera, Greg Belasus, Laura Belasus, Erik Suit, Jack Campbell, Matt Campbell, J.P. Gavin, Chris Gavin, Greg Wheeler, Lucas Wheeler, Vincent Nohe, Katie Nohe, Steven Quinn, Matt Siebold and Kim Politz, Debbie Stewart and Bill McCutcheon.
Next, thanks to those who worked at other parts of the parade: Parade dispersal was totally under the firm command of Lisa Williams, David Williams and Aaron Cahall. The Politz and Williams families did a wonderful job decorating the reviewing stand, notwithstanding that it ended up under water! Debbie Stewart and Bill McCutcheon were our indefatigable shuttle drivers, keeping us hydrated and fed during staging and parading time. Don Morrison did his usual wonderful job narrating the parade, assisted by Perry Thompson at the Reviewing Stand and Alex Krowzow at the Parade Start Point, who deftly and intelligently handled input and correction of the reviewing stand narration, coping with the (at-times) almost complete re-ordering of the parade due to weather issues affecting the parade units as they deployed. The Fountain Green Swim Club did a great job as our parade sponsor banner carriers. Our Parade Judges (who choose to remain anonymous) did fine work evaluating and ranking the various units in categories for performance and appearance awards and prizes.
If by any chance I’ve left out someone who worked with us on the parade, please accept my apologies, and my personal thanks, for your volunteerism and commitment.
My vote for the “unsung hero” award this year goes to PERRY THOMPSON. Our reviewing stand narrator, Don Morrison, was (fortunately) under a covering tent. But Perry sat out in the rain the entire parade, receiving the corrected parade units order via text from Alex Krowzow, and giving Don each unit’s pre-written “blurb.” If you sat anywhere near the reviewing stand, I’m sure you appreciated the excellent and informative narration — let’s give a big hand to Perry, without whose efforts Don would have had nothing to say!
And finally, I’d like to again personally thank the man who might just be the Chief Volunteer of Bel Air — Don Stewart, President of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., and the Bel Air Lions Youth Coordinator. Don’s thoughtful and caring support, his creativity in coming up with new ideas and interesting additions to a function that he’s been working on for over 30 years, and his hard work, sensitivity, organization, dedication and flexibility are without peer. It is Don who said to me, “Our job is to deliver a memorable experience!” Ladies and gentlemen — if you want an example of what people can accomplish when they really want to — remember the Bel Air 2016 July 4th parade! I’ve been privileged to have been the Parade Chairman now for over 24 years — but I know that without the visionary ideals of our President, Don Stewart, nothing of value or quality would happen in Bel Air on July 4! Thanks again, Don, for everything.
Well, I think I’ve dried off now, and it’s time to start working on 2017!
Michael I . Blum
Vice President, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.