Enveloping everyone in hurrahs and laughter, Severna Park's July Fourth parade spread small-town warmth through the neighborhood's streets on Saturday.
Grandparents turned out on bicycles for the 10:30 a.m. parade, waving American flags. Families lined the streets, unfolding their lawn chairs and spreading blankets.
One young mother pulled two blond toddlers to the parade in a small red wagon, balloons bobbing from the back.
Perhaps the most American scene of all was embodied in one clever and intrepid 12-year-old, who chased candy thrown from the floats with the aid of her roller blades.
Cheryl Holleran, a Severna Park Middle School student, had figured out that skating for the goodies was "easier and faster than bikes."
As politicians and local businesses tossed treats at the crowds, she darted into the roadway, snatched them up and skated back.
Midway through the hourlong parade and festival, her shorts pockets were bulging with Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds and bubble gum.
Those who came just to look, however, weren't disappointed either. The sun came out just in time for the crowds to appreciate a pig dressed, dressed in a red apron, who bowed from the float of a local food store.
Toes tapped as the Jazzercise class danced its way by. Bakers from a bagel shop were sandwiched inside huge bagel halves.
On the Severna Park Jaycee's float, a sign warned "Don't trash the future!" and displayed a City Dump crowding out a garden arranged on the truck bed. Teen-agers dressed as garbage cans cavorted near the float.
Judy and Larry Gunter, of Severna Forest, paused near Severna Park High School to watch the parade, then mounted their bikes to follow the bike trail over to the town center to catch the parade's end.
"Our son is in the high school band," explained Mrs. Gunter. "We saw him once, but we want to see him again!"
Mr. Gunter said the parade was larger this year. His wife liked the increased community involvement, with floats representing many neighborhood groups in the area, as well as civic groups and businesses.
Politicians waved and threw candy. The sheriff's department gave out tiny star-shaped badges, appointing hundreds of "deputies" for the day.
The parade, sponsored by the Greater Severna Park Chamber of Commerce, is the 18th annual Fourth of July festival in the area.
One family new to the county, Thomas and Kathy Riling and their three children, said they had experienced nothing like it in the small Pennsylvania town they'd moved from three months ago.
"The community involvement here is really nice," said Mr. Riling. "These little pockets of floats -- groups from each neighborhood -- is really lovely. We saw our next-door neighbor in one of the presentations."
His 7-year-old daughter, Kelly, was more succinct in her praise of the event: "Big Bird!" she pointed out.
When the parade has passed by the high school and continued on, people packed up picnics and gathered children before heading for their cars. Others pulled on bike helmets.
But many simply walked a few blocks, still waving their American flags, and were home.