The History of the Bel Air July 4 Celebration
In 1775, a group of Harford County, Maryland, citizens signed the Bush Declaration, dedicating their support for the actions then being undertaken by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia - actions that led to the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, issued on July 4, 1776.
In the years since then, this country has stood by its commitment to uphold inalienable rights such as "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." Citizens of Harford County have also stood by that long-ago pledge to support our nation, in the words of the Bush Declaration, "at the risque of our lives and fortunes."
The first recorded Independence Day parade in Bel Air was held on July 4, 1963. It was the result of several leading local businessmen and Town officials putting their heads together and simply deciding to form a committee to do it!
The first committee, then, was led by Jim McMahan, the local New York Life Agent, who had recently been discharged from active service. Its members also included:
- M. Eugene Street (Owner, Boyd and Fulford's Drug Store)
- J. Vaughan McMahan (Chief of Police, Town of Bel Air; Jim's father)
- Bill Gibson (Harford County Yellow Pages salesman)
- Ernie Johnson (Owner, Johnson Furniture)
- John Hubble (Manager, The Hub Store)
- Florio Franetovich, Esq. (Local Attorney)
- Lee Phillips (Manager, F. W. Woolworth Store)
- Charles L. Lutz (Owner, Lutz's Appliances)
- Dave Cohen (Owner, Hirsch's Men's Store)
We are living these days amidst some of the greatest challenges to our way of life that we have ever faced. Our July 4th celebration includes representatives of our local heroes, those healthcare workers who dedicated their very lives to the safet of their fellow citizens; also our local law enforcement and our emergency services personnel. As we go about our daily lives, we owe our safety, our independence, and our continued freedom from fear, to brave men and women like them.
Over the years since 1963, the event has grown, added features, changed its venues, and of course its volunteer management and staff, but it has remained consistently faithful to its mission: to help the citizens of greater Bel Air celebrate the anniversary of the birth of our nation.
Part of the way this is accomplished is, each year, to choose a THEME for the day, and especially for the parade. The theme is used to give parade units guidance in how to decorate their floats or other entries; what to show; how to present themselves. The judges take into consideration how well each unit expresses the theme, in determining winners in each category. Compliance with the theme is not mandatory, but recommended to all units.
Recent themes include:
- 2000: America — Yesterday and Today!
- 2001: An American Odyssey — A Salute to Progress!
- 2002: A Salute to American Heroes!
- 2003: Home of the Brave!
- 2004: Thanks to the Troops!
- 2005: A Celebration of American Diversity!
- 2006: Celebrating America's Landmarks!
- 2007: American Ingenuity — Inventors and Their Inventions!
- 2008: A Salute to Those Who Serve Our Nation!
- 2009: American Patriots — Then and Now
- 2010: America the Beautiful!
- 2011: 3 Cheers for the Red, White & Blue!
- 2012: Land of the Free!
- 2013: Celebrating America's Volunteers!
- 2014: 200 Star-Spangled Years!
- 2015: An Olde-Fashioned Fourth of July!
- 2016: Honoring Our Home Town Heroes!
- 2017: One from Many — Celebrating the Creation of the United States
- 2018: A Salute to American Heroes!
- 2019: Celebrating Bel Air — Our Home Town!
- 2020: CANCELED DUE TO COVID-19; was to have been: Celebrating Women's Suffrage and the Right to Vote
- 2021: Honoring Our Healthcare Heroes!
- 2022: Honoring Harford's Educators!
- 2023: Celebrating Harford 250!
As noted at the top of this and every page in this web site, the theme for 2024 is:
Bel Air — the Next 150 Years!
The Bel Air Independence Day Committee, Inc., composed of volunteers and members of sponsoring organizations, provides the leadership and workers to plan and carry out the many activities of our celebration. For a list of current Committee members, and the list of all the volunteers and Town of Bel Air personnel who are in charge of various parts of the day's events, please visit the Meet the Committee page.
Financial support is also received from many businesses and professional people in the Bel Air area. This web site contains a list of the patrons and sponsors who have financially assisted with our celebration during the current and previous calendar years, on the Sponsors page.