Bel Air Independence Day Committee Parade Chairman thanks town for successful July 4 events

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Parade Chairman for the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc. Michael Blum has sent along his annual thank you letter to the town following the committee’s July 4th event. Here is this year’s letter:

July 5, 2023

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 2023 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day Parade, whose theme was CELEBRATING HARFORD 250. As always, 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 Tuesday, July 4, 2023.

Although the day was steamy and the afternoon saw a few thundershowers blow through, the actual weather for the parade was pretty good, and I thought everyone was relieved and not too hot! Our Judges did their usual excellent job in ranking the units in categories; please see our Facebook page and web site for a complete list of Parade Awards.

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 Eddie Hopkins, 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 Sergio D’Alto 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, who can cope with any situation, including our having to move our Reviewing Stand location only a few days before the event!

The Committee also takes into account the needs of the Town itself, and the sheer practicality and logistics inherent in mounting a function as large as the Bel Air July 4 parade. 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! We also are deeply grateful to the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health for its new sponsorship! Other 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. 

Members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office helped us mount the parade — directing traffic, shuttling buses, helping lead the horses through the back streets, sealing off roads, etc. Keeping us safe! 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 all the Harford County volunteer fire companies in the parade, expertly marshaled by Paul Chizmar, whose hard work added to our safety. All the fire companies looked great! 

I know how difficult it is to get a band together to march and play in the middle of the summer! 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! There were 19 bands in yesterday’s parades and our Judges ranked Aberdeen High School Marching Band FIRST overall, followed by the C. Milton Wright High School Marching Band and the Patterson Mill High School Marching Band! Better than all the rest!

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.

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 Amy Biondi, Perry Thompson, Matt McDonald, David Williams, Tanner Cornelius, Evan Welch, Vince Nohe, Connor Gautier, Matthew Giordano, Henry Giordano, Andy Whaley, Mike Crispens, Matt Crispens, Ryan Stephens, Shane Whaley, Mike Stephens, Annette Blum, Chris Vandeverg, Vasili Vandeverg, Ted Vandeverg, Craig White, Doug Norton, Doug Rudd, Derek Rudd, Marc Bowman, Mike Barnett, Thomas Wallace, Patrick Wallace, Greg Cooper, Deb Wood, John McLain, Rich Thurfield, Erik Ryan, Steven Deinlein, Britney Deinlein, Willa Thurfield, Maddy McCutcheon, Grayson White, Emerson White, Bill McCutcheon, Maizie McLain & Alicia McLain. You can count on these wonderful volunteers, maybe the best we have ever had! They came from many sources, especially including Scout Troops 777 and 313, from Job’s Daughters and from the Bel Air Mount Ararat Lodge.

Parade Banners were carried by members of the Rock Spring Racers swim clubs and by other volunteers, including some of the above marshals, all managed wonderfully by David Williams.

The Parade Master of Ceremonies at our Reviewing Stand was Kristy Breslin from Channel 13 WJZ-TV, aided by Rich Bennett from Harford County Living. Great job again, guys! Script coordination was handled by Matt McDonald and Perry Thompson, taking a digital text feed from Amy Biondi, who was helped by Alicia McLain. The National Anthem was beautifully sung from the Reviewing Stand by Towson University vocal performance and music education major, St. Margaret Church Cantor Mary Pohlenz. The Reviewing Stand itself was decorated by MaryAnn Williams, Kim Politz, Andy Politz and Jeanne Bayer. 

Jones Junction shuttled our banner carriers while Debby Stewart brought refreshment to the marshals. Renée Weller 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; Harford Bank; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association; Jones Junction; Klein’s ShopRite of North Main Street Bel Air; LYNCH DESIGN | BUILD; PLAZA FORD; 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.

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 goes to ANDY WHALEY, Parade Marshal extraordinaire, who solved a huge helium-filled issue that faced us during staging. Unflappable, upbeat, creative and inspired, Andy came up with what we needed, helped by many of our Marshals who found themselves thrown into an unusual role making the parade the best it could be! Thanks, Andy, and all my Marshals!

This year saw significant transition on the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, especially including David Williams becoming our President. David, you were magnificent as always, and a rock of dependability in all matters, and we look forward to more great years ahead under your leadership. Thank you! David took over from Don Stewart, our President for over 25 years. Don of course worked as hard as anyone on this year’s parade (he is our official photographer, among many other roles), and we all try as hard as we can to fulfill and continue the vision he created.

And now — it’s time to start working on 2024!

Yours truly,

Michael I . Blum
Parade Chairman, Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc.