The Fourth of July just won't be the same in Towson this year.
The route for one of the county's oldest parades -- unchanged for almost a century -- is being altered to bypass York Road during a $4.3 million sidewalk-and-roundabout construction project, shifting 150,000 visitors from the main thoroughfare.
And the dazzling fireworks display held for decades at Luskin's appliance store -- an alternative for many residents to the crowded display at Oregon Ridge -- is in jeopardy of fizzling now that the company has closed.
While the parade will go on, a local business group is seeking community support to save the 31-year-old light show on the hill above Cromwell Bridge Road and the Beltway that also draws thousands of viewers.
"It's vitally important," Ron Levine, vice president of the Loch Raven Business Association, said of the display. "It'd really be a shame to take this thing away."
For many Baltimore County residents, the annual parade in the county seat is a must-do summertime ritual.
The event dates at least to 1907 -- maybe even earlier -- said John A. Hayden III, chairman of the parade committee. He believes it is the oldest Fourth of July parade in the county.
This Independence Day, parade watchers will have to find new vantage points to view the more than 100 marching units, including a full division from the Boumi Temple.
Instead of traveling along York Road, the 10: 30 a.m. procession will move north on Bosley Avenue -- the Towson Bypass -- from Towsontown Boulevard to Allegheny and Washington avenues before ending just south of the old courthouse -- about one-tenth of a mile longer than the usual route.
The alternate route was made necessary by construction work on the county-state Towson Enhancement Project that has left sidewalks chopped up in preparation for brick walkways to spruce up the business district.
"Our fear is that the sidewalk reconstruction, snow fencing and utility work would reduce the available area for viewing and require pedestrian traffic in the street during the course of the parade," said Hayden. Participants aren't anticipating any problems with the changes.
"I really don't think it will make a difference," said Brother Gregory Leonardo, F.S.C., director of Calvert Hall College's 150-member marching band. "There's probably more space on the bypass in terms of people and where they can set up lawn chairs more comfortably. It might be a good change."
Organizers also are hoping to attract even more people with the theme "Community Champions," featuring Olympic gold-medal swimmer Beth Botsford as grand marshal.
Other honorees include:
David Williams, a Spanish and French teacher at Dumbarton Middle School who was honored in December as the nation's outstanding foreign language teacher.
Kathleen Siciliano of Phoenix, a tennis player who placed second in a national transplant Olympic contest for those who have had organ transplants.
James Leatherman of Perry Hall, a paraplegic athlete and national squash player.
Swim coach Murray Stephens of Cockeysville.
Holocaust survivor Adele "Deli" Strummer of Baltimore.
In its effort to save the fireworks, the Loch Raven Business Association has received pledges worth about $1,500 from area businesses, falling short of the $6,000 it needs to continue the annual presentation by Zambelli Internationale of New Castle, Pa.
And while the summer holiday is months away, the group needs financial commitments before it can confirm a contract with the fireworks company.
"If we can get a few more companies, it might help keep the tradition alive," Levine said.
Pub Date: 4/09/97