Town shows its patriotic stripes

Thousands turn out for Havre de Grace's Independence Day parade and festivities


For Robert Bolth, the town of Havre de Grace's early celebration of Independence Day was a big welcome-to-the-neighborhood event.

"I moved just in time for the rain and the parade," newcomer Bolth said, watching the procession from a shady spot on a rock along Union Avenue. "It's a nice vibe, and it's nice to see all the floats get applause. There seems to be room for everyone here."

Thousands showed up for the three-hour parade - and many waved small flags, sang along to a marching band's rendition of "You're a Grand Old Flag" and cheered the civic groups, bands and majorettes.

"I'm never too old to enjoy a parade, especially a patriotic one," said Fran Blum of Bel Air, dressed in red, white and blue, adding that she never misses this one. "The weather, the people, the music, I just love it."

The weather was a little hot, with temperatures in the 90s. Some brought umbrellas, mostly for shade, as rain held off until late afternoon. The only sprinkles during the parade came when members of Cecil County Fire Company 7 fired cooling bursts from water guns into the crowd from their engine.

Just a few days after heavy rains and a threat of flooding from the Susquehanna River that flows past Havre de Grace, the heat and sunshine seemed a blessing to many.

"Thank God it's not raining," Teresa Yost Bennett said, making the sign of the cross. "But it's still sort of strange because a lot of people would be out on boats, but they are staying on land because the Susquehanna is still above normal and there is debris in the water."

There were a few boaters on the water - a great vantage point for the scheduled fireworks after dark, but not for the parade to see veterans marching to chants of "Left, right, left, right," and girls in sparkly red skirts and red, white and blue halter tops twirling batons and getting funky to "The Cha-Cha Slide":

"One hop this time - now cha-cha, y'all; freeze; everybody clap your hands."

Kisha Gladden, a Baltimore resident, followed along from a sidewalk, dancing, freezing and clapping her hands.

Gladden, who staked out an area under a tree, was there as a leader of Baltimore's high-stepping New Edition Marching Band, which was waiting for its turn to strut through town.

"We do the parade every year," she said. "They like to be toward the end to save the best for last."

A few Saturdays ago, the band marched along Caroline Street in East Baltimore in heavy rains.

"We march in rain, sleet, snow, anything," Gladden said. "It doesn't matter. They do not quit."

Finally, it was time for the New Edition Marching Band. Dressed in blue and white, several dozen of its members - some banging drums, others shaking blue-and-silver pompoms to the beat - made their way down Union Avenue, conducted by Anna Hart.

Their song of choice was hip-hop rather than patriotic: a percussion-driven take on "Hate It or Love It" by rapper The Game.

With heavy beats and fancy footwork, they moved the crowd and closed out the parade.

"This is my favorite. I wish they had more bands that played music like this," said Kelly Zimmerman of Boonsboro, dancing along. "Now that was a parade."

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