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 response to this year's parade. The weather was just beautiful, wasn't it? A bit hot, but not too bad, with a lovely breeze! No threat of rain, and it actually got clearer and clearer as the evening went on.

After all these years, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised at the size of the crowd, but I was — it was an immense crowd, certainly much larger than last year. I want to compliment the citizens of the Town of Bel Air and of Harford County for their behavior. The entire parade showed greater Bel Air to be the patriotic, fun and accessible family-oriented community it truly is. 

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. Of course, 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.

For instance, in planning for 2013, we decided to shorten the parade's length by about 45 minutes, to give people more time to relocate from where they viewed the parade to where they would view the fireworks, and to make it easier for the Town of Bel Air DPW and police department to regroup and redeploy from one part of the town to the other, in daylight. It's not easy for a small town to accommodate the influx of tens of thousands (maybe more!) people, all arriving at basically the same time, looking for parking, and seating, and food, and services. Think of the stress this puts on the roads, sidewalks, parks and parking lots. That Bel Air, Maryland, pulls it off almost as a matter of course speaks volumes about the professionalism and talents of those public servants who are charged with maintaining order. Our goal was to end the parade while it was still light and bright, and we did. We hope that the extra time thus given was useful to all and helped lessen the "holiday anxiety" that we all sometimes feel.

In these challenging economic times, it is surely significant that our committee has received such support from our community for the parade, beginning with our premier sponsor, Harford Mutual Insurance Company. Other major sponsors were Jones Junction, our program sponsor; band sponsors Balsamo, Stewart, Lutters & Ruth, CPAs; Buontempo Brothers/Tower Restaurant; The Festival at Bel Air Shopping Center; HAR-CO Maryland Federal Credit Union; 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 contributions from dozens of individuals and businesses, as listed in our program and on our web site, http://www.belairjuly4.org.

I wish especially to thank the Town of Bel Air commissioners and Town Administrator Christopher Schlehr; Police Chief Leo Matrangola; Deputy Chief Rick Peschek, the entire Bel Air Police Department, and Town of Bel Air Public Works personnel, led by Chuck Tracy and Mike Cornett, for their help. Mike Krantz and Laura Stafford from the Town of Bel Air administration helped a great deal as well, especially arranging for the use of the Bel Air Reckord Armory, where Armory Manager Dave Gigliotti made some of our out-of-town bands very welcome for the night of July 4th. Band Directors Mary Lynn Twentey of C. Milton Wright High School, Richard Hauf of Havre de Grace High School, Tony Domenico of Bel Air High School, John Wojciechowski of Edgewood High School, Lewis Blandon of Joppatowne High School, Ronald Burke of Patterson Mill High School and Marc Bolden of John Carroll School also deserve high marks for turning their bands out in such great numbers and with such great spirit, in the midst of summer vacation.

To the many businesses, clubs, individuals, organizations and groups 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 kept shining 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 Bond Street, Rockspring Road, Ellendale Street and Gordon Street, who kindly allowed us to marshal the parade in front and all around them during the afternoon and evening! Particular thanks goes to Klein's ShopRite, which gave us total use of their parking lots at their Main Street location and those of the ShopRite Gas-N-Go filling station from 4 p.m. until the parade was over. We also owe a great debt of gratitude to Harford Mutual Insurance Company, our premier sponsor, which allowed us to use its parking lots to marshal marching units and notable people, to the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, which let our beauty pageant representatives relax in air-conditioned comfort, and which provided food and drink to our parade marshals, and to the Aegis/Homestead Publishing, which allowed us to use its parking lots on West Pennsylvania Avenue for our equestrian staging. We also received tremendous support from Aberdeen Proving Ground, whose commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Ferrell, attended our staging and marched with his color guard in the parade.

Without all this support, we could not have held the parade.

It takes hours and hours of commitment and hard work from many volunteers to make a parade happen, and I need to send many, many thanks to our marvelous parade marshals: Aaron Cahall, Dee Strickland, John Cubbage, Vince Nohe, Katie Nohe, Stephen Quinn, Annette Blum, Dave Andrews, Margaret Beain, Greg Cooper, Ana Beain, Ron Eastridge, Andy Beain, David Blum, Lisa Williams, Meghan Roig, Donna Devord, Brian Devord, Charlie Devord, Bill Smith, Roger Staso, Chris Wilcox, Amelia Wilcox, Nathan Wilcox, John McCutcheon, Tom Siebold, Matt Siebold, Scott Arnold, Liam Arnold, Beth Siebold, Anne Siebold, Amy Ausmus, Jack Ausmus, Jack Deal, David Williams, Hayden Anthony and Kate Anthony. I know that I've probably left somebody off this list, and for that I apologize. Refreshments and shuttles were handled by Bill McCutcheon and Chris Hagepanos, who did a marvelous job getting water to the marshals and transporting various people back and forth as needed. Rick Davis and Mike Marino handled our communications with the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company and other Harford County fire companies in the parade.

David, Lisa and Mary Anne Williams did a wonderful job decorating the reviewing stand. Great job, guys. Communications were ably handled by Don Stewart. Thanks also to Boy Scout Troops 777 and 313, many of whose members were our marshals, and to the Fountain Green Swim Club, our parade sponsor and banner carriers. 

Don Morrison did his usual wonderful job narrating the parade, assisted by Perry Thompson, reviewing stand marshal, and Alex Krowzow, who had the difficult job of texting the reviewing stand with the inevitable changes that occurred to the pre-planned parade order, in light of actual unit activity, including no-shows and shifts of positions.

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. The complete list of parade prizes and awards is posted on our web site and is also sent to The Aegis for publication.

My vote for the "unsung hero" award this year goes to parade marshal Dave Andrews, who was absolutely essential in managing the very challenging "merge" of divisions and inserts at the point where the parade starts.  

And finally, I'd like to again personally thank Don Stewart, president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc., for his hard work, support, sensitivity, organization, dedication, flexibility and thoughtfulness. As I said above, the committee has a vision of what the parade should be. I've been privileged to have been the parade chairman now for over 21 years - but I know that without the visionary ideals of our president, Don Stewart, nothing of value would happen in Bel Air on July 4! Thanks, Don, for everything.

Michael I . Blum

Parade Chairman

Vice President, Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc.