Bel Air Independence Day Committee Parade Chairman Michael Blum has sent along his annual public thank you note for everyone who participated in planning and execution of this year’s July 4th parade. However, this year’s note included his concerns about people who walked between marching parade units and children who threw noisemakers at the hooves of horses in the parade and he admonished bystanders who failed to intervene. Blum writes: “We live in a free country. But with freedom comes the responsibility not only to ‘say something if you see something,’ but to DO something: to act in the common interest. A parade reflects the style and state of the community in which it occurs. Let’s all work together to ensure that in Bel Air, our parade is just as wonderful as is our Town.”
(For a list of winners of the day-long celebration’s various events, visit https://belairjuly4.org/results.php)
Here is his letter:
July 6, 2022
To the Greater Bel Air and Harford County Community:
On behalf of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., I wish to thank the Town of Bel Air, the greater Bel Air community, and the Harford County community as a whole, for its support of and response to the 2022 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day Parade, whose theme was HONORING HARFORD’S EDUCATORS.
Although we hoped that the pandemic by now would be over, recent infection outbreaks wreaked havoc in our corps of marshals and supporting staff; quite a few veteran marshals were sidelined. So, my thanks go out even more strongly to those who volunteered. And considering everything, we were able once again to “get it done,” and we are happy about that! Also, the weather was one of the best I can remember (which of course always helps).
We hope we delivered a memorable parade, one worthy of our Town, our community and our magnificent country, the United States of America, one nation indivisible, whose Independence Day we celebrated on Monday, July 4, 2022.
Many people do not realize that the Bel Air July 4th Parade, 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, without whose support, of course, the event could not occur.
I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air Commissioners, led by its Chairperson, Mayor Kevin Bianca, and Commissioners Donna Kahoe, Erin Hughes, Mary Chance and Paula Etting. Thanks also go to Bel Air Town Manager L. Jesse Bane, and Town Director of Human Resources and Administration Michael Krantz, and their staffs, including Julia Potler in particular. I also wish to thank Town of Bel Air Chief of Police Charles Moore, Sergeant Dave Madden, Officer Rick Krause and the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Department of Public Works personnel, led by Stephen Kline, and especially Chuck Arnold and Freddie Murillo, and the rest of the fine, hardworking DPW staff.
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 general community for the parade, beginning with our Premier Sponsor and fireworks sponsor, Jones Junction. Thanks, Jones Junction! Sponsoring organizations overall included 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 many individuals and businesses, as listed in our program, 20,000 copies of which were distributed throughout the area in the days before the event.
Members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Maryland State Fire Police and other participating agencies helped us mount the parade — directing traffic, shuttling buses, helping lead the horses through the back streets, sealing off roads, etc. Keeping us safe! I really appreciated their help at the intersection of E. MacPhail Road and Route 924, where every parade unit, all the cars and buses, were checked in and routed to the proper parts of the staging area. We couldn’t have done it without them.
Thanks also to the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company personnel under the direction of Fire Chief Scott Panowitz and marshaled by Charlie Walls, whose hard work added to our safety, and who looked great in the parade itself.
I can only imagine the trouble and stress our local Harford County high school band directors encountered this year as their students returned. I know how difficult it is to get a band together to march and play, in the middle of the summer, in any year. So I give great thanks to Aberdeen High School Band Director Kaitlyn Wittman, Bel Air High School Band Director Samantha Romero, C. Milton Wright High School Band Director Dr. Joel Frisch, Edgewood High School Band Director Evan Schutz, Harford Technical High School Band Director Andrew Rising, Havre de Grace High School Band Director Richard Hauf, Joppatowne High School Band Director Joshua Baker, North Harford High School Band Director John Wojciechowski and Patterson Mill High School Band Director Emily Wose. You guys are the greatest!
We also were proud and honored to have this year’s Harford County Teacher of the Year, Ashley Gereli, and the Harford County Public Schools Transportation Department 2021 – 2022 School Bus Drivers and School Attendant of the Year, in our parade. To the many businesses, churches, clubs, individuals and organizations who also participated in the parade — you truly exemplify what it means to be public-spirited, patriotic and community-minded. I want to also thank our elected public officials for their cooperation and spirited participation, and for their willingness to understand our vision of the Bel Air July 4 parade.
There is, however, something I need to bring to everyone’s attention. As we all know, some celebrations this past July 4th in our country were marred by terrible events: some distant, but some as close as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We in Bel Air are not immune. We must do our best to enhance safety, exalt common sense and emphasize good conduct as necessary parts of providing a wonderful 4th of July parade experience.
But some things are beginning to fray. I have noticed, for instance, many more people walking right into or between units during the parade itself — something that is highly dangerous. Please don’t! And on Monday, we had more than one instance of kids (I guess) throwing snappers or crackers at the horses’ feet as they went by; I heard these myself. As awful as that is, what is most upsetting and disappointing is the knowledge that parents or bystanders just sat there and let such a thing happen. When parents permit their children to throw things such as snappers at the hooves of horses, or to tease animals, it’s not acceptable or humane. It’s just stupid.
It is also highly dangerous — a 1500-pound animal that is startled by a cracking snapper at its feet can become, instantly, a danger to its rider and the spectators. And that almost happened — one rider was almost thrown as his horse reared up.
This isn’t the old Soviet Union, where parades marched between lines of dour soldiers whose linked arms on both sides of the street separated the units from the crowd. We live in a free country. But with freedom comes the responsibility not only to “say something if you see something,” but to DO something: to act in the common interest. A parade reflects the style and state of the community in which it occurs. Let’s all work together to ensure that in Bel Air, our parade is just as wonderful as is our Town.
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, including Parade Marshals Hope Yamagata, Perry Thompson, Tamara Taran, Vince Nohe, Mike Mullis, Connor Gauthier, Seth Mullis, Andy Whaley, Mike Stephens, Ryan Stephens, Shane Whaley, Aaron Cahall, Scott Adams, David Williams, Lisa Williams, Annette Blum, Todd Yamagata, Greg Cooper, Deb Wood, Kayne Leilich, John McLain, Alicia McLain, Maisie McLain, Peter Ludwig, Scott Adams, Colleen Murphy, and Mark Merryfield. I know also that we had last-minute additions from Boy Scout Troop 777 whose names, alas, I didn’t get. Thank you all!
Parade Banners were carried by members of Scout Troops 777, 830, 313 and other volunteers, including some of the above marshals, all managed wonderfully by Hope Yamagata.
The Parade Master of Ceremonies was Kristy Breslin from Channel 13 WJZ-TV, aided by Rich Bennett from Harford County Living. Great job, guys! Script coordination was handled by Tamara Taran and Perry Thompson. The National Anthem was beautifully sung from the Reviewing Stand by Towson University music major and St. Margaret Church Cantor Mary Pohlenz. Members of the Bel Air Lions acted as shuttles for marshals and parade units. Don Stewart managed all walkie-talkie communications. Vendors along the parade route were coordinated by John Hayes.
Many bands in the parade were sponsored by area businesses, including APGFCU; Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant; HAR-CO Credit Union; Harford Bank; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association; Jones Junction; Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland; Plaza Ford; PNC Bank; Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association; and Tar Heel Construction Group, LLC.
If by any chance I’ve left out someone who worked with us on the parade, or contributed to it, please accept my apologies, and my personal thanks, for your volunteerism and commitment.
Our Parade Judges (who choose to remain anonymous) evaluated and ranked the various units in categories for performance and appearance awards and prizes. All units were judged as to how well they adhered to, or displayed the parade’s theme: “HONORING HARFORD’S EDUCATORS,” as noted above. Particular praise goes to the “Driving Our Future” float, which won the “best float” award. This float truly showed how to take a theme, believe in it, and make it real.
Every year, I try to identify an “unsung hero” who acted in such a significant way, beyond expectations, making the parade happen. My “unsung hero” award this year is split in half: first, to Alicia McLain, whose help with me at Parade Start was absolutely essential. Alicia, you were terrific! And, to Hope Yamagata, who was faced with a seemingly impossible task: to get 15 banners carried in the parade by a depleted force of banner-carriers. You got it done, Hope!
And finally, I must, again in 2022, and as strongly as I am able, thank Don Stewart, President of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. Don’s continuing vision and his caring support is the true reason that Bel Air is able to have such a celebration. Without the forward-thinking ideals of Don Stewart, nothing of value could occur. We are all lucky and blessed that Don and Debby Stewart chose to live here and to work so hard to give so much back to our community. Thanks, Don.
And now — it’s time to start working on 2022!
Michael I . Blum
Parade Chairman, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.