Patriotism And Creativity On Display At Independence Day Parade


Nearly 50 years after its humble inception, the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce’s Independence Day parade still offered thousands of spectators a captivating, patriotic experience with small-town USA charm this year. Families, neighbors and friends lined up along Benfield Road, Evergreen Road, Riggs Avenue, B&A Boulevard and Cypress Creek Road to watch a procession of nearly 100 festive floats, unique vehicles and talented people meander through the heart of Severna Park.

Though it was hot – that’s to be expected in July – the weather was cooperative, with blue skies overhead for the beloved community event. Faithful annual spectators sporting their finest red, white and blue attire staked out their preferred viewing locations early in the morning, including Steve and Debbie Keefer, who have watched the parade from a shady spot in front of Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church for the last 13 years since relocating from Northern Virginia.

“I just like seeing the excitement of all the kids – the kids really get into it,” Steve said of the parade, noting, “We like that it’s patriotic.”

Debbie added, “The kids running out to get candy is cute.”

There was no shortage of candy raining down on onlooking children along the parade route this year. Parade participants also gifted stickers, beach balls, water bottles, frisbees, temporary tattoos and other small treasures to smiling, flag-waving kids.

Spectator Jordan Posey shared childhood memories of attending the parade every year as she grew up in Severna Park. She would watch with her friends while her parents walked in the parade with local politicians. Now, she and her husband, Eric, also a Severna Park native, are starting their own tradition of bringing their children to the parade.

“It’s exciting having kids now and reliving it through their eyes,” Jordan said. Their 5- and 1-year-old daughters watched with Mike and Diane DiBlasio’s two young girls. Diane, a Millersville resident who is from Long Island, New York, shared that it was only her second year watching the parade.

With abundant creativity on display among the floats and other parade entries, this year’s judges panel had their work cut out for them in selecting the winning parade participants. Communities, businesses, nonprofits, churches, clubs, first responders, service members, scouts, elected officials and others entertained the crowds with impressive craftsmanship, energetic presence and sheer talent.

Yet, when the parade concluded and the onlookers dispersed, winners were crowned victorious after much deliberation. The coveted recognition of Best Overall parade entry went to the neighborhood of Linstead on the Severn for its float that featured a gigantic patriotic whale. Community member John Velasco helped assemble the massive grinning marine mammal and explained that it had a working blowhole. “Since the blue whales are endangered, our community theme this year is conservation,” he shared. “Our float is built entirely (with) recycled materials, including reclaimed wood.”

Velasco added, “The last two evenings (before the parade), the entire community came together to assemble the float, and much to the chagrin of their parents, the kids painted their hands to leave handprints all over the float.”

The whale’s blowhole, which Velasco explained was powered by a pneumatic valve system designed and built by Linstead community members, did not go unnoticed by the judges. “The little things really stood out,” said parade judge Greg Coster, co-owner of The Big Bean. “For example, the blowhole on the whale – it was just perfect!”

Olde Severna Park Improvement Association was awarded the title of Best Theme for its float that featured an enormous crab. The honor of being named Most Patriotic went to Nathaniel McDavitt’s Memorial Flag, with a massive American flag carried by dozens of participants.

Local businesses that won bragging rights in the category of Best Commercial were first-place winners Jing Ying Institute of Kung Fu & Tai Chi, with Pedal Pushers in second place and Homestead Gardens in third.

Of the many communities that banded together to fashion splendid floats, some of which included live musical performances, Round Bay came out on top as Best Community with Shipley’s Choice and Severndale in second and third places. SPAN received the designation of Best Organization/Club for its display that highlighted not only the nonprofit’s food distribution efforts, but also the work members do to help people in need avoid eviction. Chartwell Country Club and Truckin 4 Troops received second place, and American Heritage Girls Troop 152 took home third.

Joining Greg Coster on the judges panel were his wife and Big Bean co-owner Christie Coster, Jonathan Katz and Dianna Lancione of the Severna Park Voice, Jason LaBarge of LaBarge Financial, and state delegate Rachel Muñoz of Muñoz Estates and Trusts.

“I grew up here, so it was such an honor to judge the parade this year and to have three generations with my parents, my husband and I, and my children here,” Muñoz said. “It was amazing. I loved it!”

Her parting sentiments likely reflect the way many parade participants and spectators felt as they disassembled their floats and packed up their lawn chairs to head home and celebrate the remainder of their Fourth of July holiday.

Next year will mark half a century since the Severna Park Independence Day parade first inspired onlookers with a sense of pride in country and community, and with any luck, the 2025 parade could be the town’s biggest and best celebration of freedom yet.

Zach Sparks contributed to this story.


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