Organizer embraces timeless spirit of July Fourth parades


July 03, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THERE'S SOMETHING about the Fourth of July that seems to bring out the kid in folks.

"I can recall those days, not so many years ago," said Annapolis Mayor Dean L. Johnson, "when it was time to rig your bicycle with red, white and blue crepe paper and noise-making cards on the spokes."

Kids and community are a big deal with Tom Roskelly, the city's public information officer and organizer of tomorrow's parade through downtown Annapolis, which steps off at 6:30 p.m. - with fireworks set to go about 9:15 p.m.

"We try to make it as much of a hometown, Norman Rockwell production as we can," said Roskelly. He sends out queries many weeks in advance, a good number of them to civic associations and such. He then lays out cards on the floor that describe each unit and "builds" the parade.

"You try to keep musical groups separated, and you want horses behind units that are walking."

One wheeled unit will be the Old Navy Bike and Buggy Parade, and kids (not mayors) with bicycles are invited to join in. Old Navy will provide kits to decorate bikes. Youngsters should show well before 6 to avoid any last-minute decorating rush. Look for the Unit 44 spot on St. John's Street where the parade is formed.

The parade will run from St. John's to College Avenue, Main Street and Randall Street to Gate 1 at the Naval Academy, and along the sea wall at Farragut Field. It's a long haul but somewhat downhill.

Last year's participants doubtless remember the parade as some sort of Death March through the heat and humidity. Spectators gathered in shadows along the route, to escape the sun and keep some life in their ice cream cones.

Roskelly can recall several positive images from parades past. A group of Desert Storm veterans marching in 1991 included his son - "most meaningful for me," he said.

And then there was the Ward 1 float two years ago. Downtown resident Jim Vance complained quite publicly about noise from special events at City Dock preventing him from getting his afternoon nap. A great hue and cry went up about "Ward 1 whiners."

Vance, a Vietnam combat veteran, allowed himself to be dressed in nightgown and bonnet, and then installed in the bed of a pickup truck made over to look like a four-poster bed. The whole tableau did much to deflate Ward 1's image as a resting place of cranky stuffed shirts.

Two asides:

Last year, the Marine guards at Gate 1 got persnickety and rummaged through coolers looking for alcohol, which is forbidden on Academy grounds.

Parking at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium and a shuttle bus to downtown are free - and the rational thing to do.

This year's honorary parade marshal is Fred Paone, a prosecutor for the state's attorney's office and Annapolis' "Mr. Fireworks."

"Fred's done yeoman's work for the city over the years," said Roskelly.

Paone heads July 4th Annapolis Inc., a nonprofit that raises money to pay for the fireworks. Major donors this year are the city ($20,000), USinternetworking ($15,000) and Annapolis Volvo ($10,000). Other businesses and civic groups have chipped in.

Paone said the program will run about 25 minutes and "include a number of new pattern shells." Fireworks will be launched from a barge anchored near the mouth of Spa Creek. In the event of rain, the fireworks will go Wednesday evening, with no parade.

"I enjoy helping to present a first-class show," said Paone. "It's a great day, a great celebration, something I've enjoyed since I was a kid."

On the run

We can think of lots of sane things to do this time of year, like sit in front of an open refrigerator door. There are some folks out there, however, who are, you know, just a little bit crazier than the rest of us. They are the runners.

A club of runners, the Annapolis Striders, is putting on two races in the dead heat of summer - but showing some good sense by staging them on the cusps of the day.

The 19th John Wall Memorial One-Mile Track Run will be held Saturday at Broadneck High School. Junior medley races for children will begin at 5 p.m., adult heats at 7 p.m. The junior events will range from distances of 100 meters to 800 meters for ages 5 and younger to 12 and older.

The race memorializes a former Annapolis Strider, John Wall, who ran on a relay team with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

At 8 a.m. July 15, the Striders will stage their Women's 5K Distance Festival, starting at West Annapolis Elementary. That race will be followed by another for men, starting at 8:45 a.m. This has evolved into a popular event, with 182 women finishers last year and 89 men.

Entry fees are required for both days' events. Annapolis Striders maintains a hot line: 410-268-1165.

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