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, 2024

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 2024 Bel Air July 4th Independence Day Parade. 

As always, we hope we delivered a parade that is worthy of our Town, our community and our magnificent country, the United States of America: one nation indivisible, whose Independence Day we celebrate every July 4th.

July in Maryland brings its own challenges: the day was steamy and there was a little drizzle during part of the parade, but we managed NOT to have thunderstorms or lightning or heavy downpours (all of which were predicted). In fact, the increasing clouds at about 5 pm actually LOWERED the temperature dramatically, at least on the Parade Route, and I heard many people exclaiming how much better it felt “now that the heat was gone”! The crowds, although smaller than 2023, undoubtedly due to the bad forecast and the heat, were very well behaved and wonderfully decked out in patriotic garb. It was, perhaps, the most satisfying thing of all to see so many children sitting with their families, waving flags and pennants, and generally having a great time.

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. The Committee interacts 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 Paula Etting, Deputy Mayor Steve Chizmar, and Commissioners Mary Chance, James Rutledge and Jakob Taylor. 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. Angela Robertson, Economic Development Director of the Town of Bel Air, loaned us the PA System for the Reviewing Stand — it worked great, Angela! 

I also wish to thank Town of Bel Air Chief of Police Charles Moore, Sergeant Dave Madden, Corporal 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, Freddie Murillo and Blaine Lang, and the rest of the fine, hardworking DPW staff, who can cope with any situation and are always there when we need them. They uphold public safety and public confidence, and pay attention to the smallest of details. We are lucky to have them on our side!

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 the community for the parade, beginning with our Premier Sponsor and fireworks sponsor, Jones Junction. Other 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. 

Members of the Town of Bel Air Police Department and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office helped us mount our 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, under the direction of Chief Scott Panowitz, and all the Harford County volunteer fire companies in the parade, expertly marshaled by John Stansfield, 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, Fallston High School Band Director Ariel Breidenbaugh, Harford Technical High School Band Director Andrew Rising, Havre de Grace High School Band Director Joshua Dill, Joppatowne High School Band Director Joshua Baker, North Harford High School Band Director John Wojciechowski and Patterson Mill High School Band Director Emily Venable. You guys are the greatest! There were sixteen marching bands in yesterday’s parade, and our judges ranked Bel Air High School’s Marching Band the BEST overall, followed by the Aberdeen High School Marching Band, the Edgewood High School Marching Band and the Joppatowne 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 in the parade, and for their willingness to understand our vision of it.

It takes hours and hours of commitment and hard work from many, many volunteers to make a parade happen, so I need to send many, many thanks to our many, many volunteers, including but not limited to Parade Marshals Matt McDonald, Vince Nohe, Mike Mullis, Seth Mullis, Connor Gauthier, Andy Whaley, Shane Whaley, Aaron Cahall, Mike Stephens, Tommy Kerfoot, Lisa Williams, David Williams, Don Stewart, Bill McCutcheon, Annette Blum, Dave Guzewich, Mike Barnett, Chris Van de Verg, Ted Van de Verg, Doug Rudd, Derek Rudd, Uziel Ovalle, Michael New, Erin Hughes, Colleen Murphy, Greg Cooper, Rick Grant, Deb Wood, Bud Zahn, Matt Giordano, Graham Phillips, Madeleine Thompson and Alyssa Biondi. I know that some scouts from Andy Whaley’s troop also helped, and in a big way, and I regret that I don’t have their names for this list. We counted on all these wonderful volunteers, including representatives from Boy Scout Troops 777 and 313, and our expectations were exceeded by their excellence!

Parade Banners were carried by members of the Rock Spring Racers swim club and by other volunteers, including some of the above marshals, all managed wonderfully by Chris Van de Verg. 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.

The Parade Master of Ceremonies at our Reviewing Stand was Kristy Breslin from Channel 2 WMAR-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. The National Anthem was beautifully sung at 6 pm at the Reviewing Stand by soprano Autumn Boyle. The Reviewing Stand itself was decorated by MaryAnn Williams, Kim Politz, Andy Politz, Logan Politz and Jeanne Bayer. 

Shuttle driver Amy Biondi brought refreshment to the marshals, managed walkie-talkie communications and performed our critical text-messaging between Parade Start and the Reviewing Stand — all at the same time! Brava, Amy! Vendors along the parade route were coordinated by John Hayes.

Many bands in the parade were sponsored by area businesses, including APGFCU; Balsamo, Lutters, Renna & Rosensteel, CPAs; Jarrettsville Federal Savings & Loan Association; JES Foundation Repair; Jones Junction; Klein’s ShopRite of Harford County; Plaza Ford; Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association; and Tar Heel Construction Group, LLC. Thanks to these!

If 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, that his or her contribution “made the parade happen.” My “unsung hero” award this year goes to AARON CAHALL, who has been a member of the Committee and a committed Parade volunteer for well over two decades, ever since when — as a teenager — he joined us as a member of Troop 313. This year, Aaron took over much of the on-the-spot “traffic control” parade formation direction from me — meaning, Aaron controlled how we actually put the parade together on the spot, merging and inserting bands, fire companies, floats, marching units, mobile units and equestrian units in exactly the order set, while coping with any unanticipated anomalies — such as units cancelling due to weather fears or simply not showing up (which always happens). I marveled at Aaron’s professionalism and common-sense in pulling this off as well as anyone could wish. His generation is truly one that I really think will make our country thrive, as soon as it is allowed to take over! Aaron was greatly helped by Bill McCutcheon, Amy Biondi, Vince Nohe and Andy Whaley (and by me, too), but he did most of the “heavy lifting.” Thanks, Aaron, and all my Parade Marshals!

Last year (2023) saw significant transition on the Bel Air Independence Day Committee, especially including David Williams becoming our President. David has been a rock of dependability in all matters ever since, and we look forward to more great years ahead under his leadership. Thanks, Dave! Don Stewart, our President-emeritus after leading the Committee for over 25 years, has continued to work as hard as anyone, especially triumphing in effecting the transition of our town streets from public thoroughfares to blocked-off parade staging zones! As always, thanks, Don.

On to 2025!

Yours truly,

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