Whether we're talking about a small group of neighbors or a mob of several hundred thousand, the Fourth of July parades and fireworks taking place in communities throughout Maryland this weekend are all about reinforcing the sense of community.
As Donald Stewart, president of the Bel Air Independence Day Committee Inc., says: "Events like this really bring a community together. John Adams remarked of the Declaration of Independence that it was a very important event that should be celebrated in every corner of the nation every year. We look on it as an opportunity for our people to celebrate the nation's birthday at the community level."
The biggest community gathering, of course, is at Baltimore's Inner Harbor Monday at 9:30 p.m., where as many as 200,000 will gather to see the 30-minute fireworks display staged by Zambelli Internationale.
Because of the usual congestion around the harbor for that grand show, you may want to consider mass transit. The MTA metro will operate every 15 minutes from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and the light rail will operate every 15 minutes from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. MTA buses will run on Sunday schedules with baseball express service.
Besides the brief fireworks blitz, there is a whole weekend of activities at Harborplace, which is celebrating its 14th anniversary.
In the Harborplace amphitheatre today, the country rock band Grandsons of the Pioneers plays from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and the Magical MJ Jugglers perform at 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, the Harborplace Merchants Association Birthday Party is serving up thousands of pieces of birthday cake from noon to 1 p.m., a Winnie the Pooh visit from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and the jazz and South African rhythms from Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, there's yet another visit from the ubiquitous Winnie the Pooh from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., patriotic and traditional band selections from the 1st U.S. Army Band from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and similar music from the 229th Army Band from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Monday, a classic vehicle rally on the parking lot near the Light Street Pavilion occurs from noon to 5 p.m., then it's back over to Harborplace for the blues band Rick Serfas and the Soul Providers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., country music from the Maria Rose Band from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and of course the biggest bang of all, the Harborside fireworks celebration at 9:30 p.m. (which will be simulcast on WMIX-FM 106.5).
Other Inner Harbor attractions Monday night include the Baltimore Museum of Industry at 1415 Key Highway, which has a "picnic on the pier" from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Hot dogs, soda and free parking area included in the price of $10 for adults and $5 for kids under 12 ($7.50 for adult museum members and $3.50 for their kids). Call (410) 727-4808.
Another harborside perch will be at the National Aquarium on Pier 4, where soda, entertainment and a great view are yours from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Cost is $12 for adults, $10 for kids ages 3 to 11 ($7 for members and $5 for their kids). For reservations, call (410) 576-3800.
Rain date for the Inner Harbor fireworks is Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. For more information on Baltimore's Fourth of July-related events, call (410) 837-4636 or 1-800-282-6632.
The annual parade in Towson draws huge crowds. If you want to join in, there is pre-parade entertainment starting Monday at 9 a.m. The parade itself kicks off at 10:30 a.m. from Burke Avenue and York Road. The more than 100 units in the parade include veterans of the D-Day campaign, a martial arts group, antique fire engines, a soccer team, Liberty Showcase Theater doing music from "Into the Woods," a Highland pipes band, and even a high school band from Minnesota. Call (410) 825-9384.
In the evening, many folks around Towson watch the fireworks launched from the parking lot of the Luskin's store at 1125 Cromwell Bridge Road. Its hilly site means people from miles around will be able to see the show when it hits the air on Monday at dusk. (410) 321-4446.
Up in Oregon Ridge Park, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra does its patriotic duty with concerts capped with fireworks Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. The park opens at 3 p.m. each day. Rain date for both concerts is Tuesday at 9 p.m.
BSO associate conductor David Lockington leads the orchestra in "The Star-Spangled Banner," Antonin Dvorak's Largo from his Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ("From the New World"), Richard Hayman's "American Song-Fest Sing Along," John Philip Sousa's "Semper Fidelis March," and selections from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo," Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" and Sousa's "The Liberty Bell March."
These concerts are a popular tradition, averaging 8,000 people per concert. Many patrons -- and their picnic baskets -- arrive early. Food available at the site will include such favorites as apple pie and red, white and blue ice pops.
Tickets for the Oregon Ridge concerts are $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and under. Call (410) 783-8000.