The Fourth that almost fizzled Howard County: Kiwanis members helped save traditional fireworks show.

July 03, 1996

LET THE FIREWORKS soar in the night sky above Lake Kittamaqundi tomorrow to celebrate America's birthday. Let the bursts from the sparkles above mix with the "oohs" and "aahs" from the thousands below. Fortunately, Columbia's Fourth of July celebration will go on -- after all.

Over the years, the show has brought fun, patriotic zeal and tradition to Howard County -- a changing suburb where tradition can be hard to come by. Thousands flock to the lakefront, line pTC U.S. 29 and Md. 175 and other favorite locations to watch the show. It has become a source of local pride.

But last spring brought the disturbing possibility that this year's celebration would be dropped. The sponsor, the Columbia Kiwanis Club, almost lost its charter when membership fell to 13. The Kiwanis needed at least 15 members to retain its good standing. Fortunately, after an account in The Sun, three people joined the group and two former members pledged to rejoin. The new members, in effect, rescued the charter -- and the celebration.

Although the county and the Columbia Association contribute generously to the $20,000 display, neither had a desire to run it. Civic pride would have been dealt a blow had things not fallen into place. We hope the Kiwanis, threatened by changing times, will remain afloat for this reason as well as for its many other community contributions.

Columbia's celebration is a dandy show. It's not as glamorous as Baltimore's Inner Harbor display or as universally watched as the spectacle to the south in the nation's capital. But it takes place in a community founded expressly on the precepts of equality articulated by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence signed 220 years ago.

Those beliefs are taken to heart in communities such as Longfellow in Harper's Choice, a diverse neighborhood with an eclectic way of saying "happy birthday" to America. Participants in its 26th annual parade tomorrow morning may include kazoo bands and "drill" teams -- that is, marchers carrying electric drills.

Celebrations like these bring together people, regardless of whether their ancestors gained freedom in 1776, through constitutional amendments or arrival from abroad. These traditions are eminently worth preserving.

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