A Grand Day, Indeed!

July 2, 2016 will go down as a day the Laurel History Boys won’t forget. As reported earlier this week, we had the honor of being named Grand Marshals of the city’s Fourth of July Parade.

With this year’s theme focusing on Laurel’s history, it was a quite a thrill to see a record turnout of over 90 antique and classic cars participating in the parade and car show. Kevin, Pete and I had the pleasure of riding in Jerry Seitz’ ultra-rare 1940 Plymouth pickup, which still has its original paint and cargo bed!

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Photo: John Mewshaw

Jerry shared an interesting historical note about the truck, which he acquired just a few years ago. He’d first seen it—and tried to purchase it—from a gentleman 40 years earlier. When he finally got it, the original owner’s son also gave him an old address book that had belonged to his father—which included countless names and numbers of Plymouth collectors and enthusiasts. Among the references was Jerry’s name and number… from 40 years ago. Clearly, this beautiful truck has finally made it to its rightful home, and what a pleasure it was to ride with Jerry this morning!

I thought I’d share a quick recap of the sights and sounds of this unique experience, coming from one who’d never been a Grand Marshal of anything before. I’ll also include a few pointers, if you will, should you ever find yourself riding in this grand Laurel tradition.

One of the things you have to take into consideration when riding in any parade is transportation to said parade. It’s not simply a matter of just showing up to the starting point… because unless you plan to walk (or catch a ride) all the way back to where you originally parked your car, you’ll need to give that some thought.

The three of us parked near the end of the parade route at Laurel Lakes, where we’d be able to enjoy the car show afterwards and then have easy access to our own vehicles. And we had the benefit of catching a ride over to the starting point at Sixth and Montgomery Streets in true historic style, thanks to 4th of July Committee Member Mike Templeton. He picked us up in his 1956 Chevy Bel Air, and we enjoyed a quick cruise through the heart of the Historic District en route to the staging area.

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Once there, we got to meet Jerry and get our first look at the Grand Marshals’ vehicle itself.IMG_5735

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Waiting for the parade to start at 11:00, we had the chance to visit with Mayor Craig Moe, and City Council members—all of whom admirably walk the full distance of the parade, happily greeting folks and putting those of us who comfortably ride in vehicles to shame. 🙂

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Upon starting, Kevin and I hopped into the back of the truck while Pete rode shotgun.

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Photo: John Mewshaw
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Photo: John Mewshaw

 

This was something else that was new to me—riding “backwards” through Laurel. It’s a bit more disorienting than you’d imagine. This was the view we had looking back along Montgomery Street:

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Photo: Alexander Butler
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Photo: Alexander Butler

Another unique sight was riding past the legendary West Laurel Rag Tag Band, which traditionally brings up the rear of every parade. I managed to snag a photo of them getting ready to fall in line near Laurel Elementary School.

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Photo: Brian Krista, Baltimore Sun Media Group
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Photo: Linda Ekiss Lemar

Just before turning onto Fourth Street, I caught sight of one of my favorite former co-workers from the Laurel Library, whom I hadn’t seen since I left that job (my very first!) way back in 1997. Maria Raynes was my supervisor as a clerical aide, and coincidentally, she just retired from the job this week—there was a wonderful story about her in the Laurel Leader!

She took a photo of us, and after quickly dispersing candy to the nearby youngsters, I had to snap a photo of her as well.

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Photo: Maria Raynes

Heading onto Fourth Street, I snuck a couple of shots over the top of the truck’s cab to see what the route ahead looked like. Here, we’re approaching the intersection of Talbott Avenue, (Route 198 West) which Laurel’s Finest was just about to block off.

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We offered them some candy, too, but they declined. But I’m guessing the folks who really could’ve used some refreshment were the drivers stuck on Route 198 west-and eastbound to let the parade pass through.

Heading further south along Fourth Street, we were approaching Marshall Avenue at this point… and there’s a lot of eager kids with candy bags along this stretch. One can never have too much candy—that goes for both parade participants and spectators. (Kevin and I ran out just before Ashford Boulevard, so that’s a lesson learned.)

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Just past Crow Branch, I saw another familiar face—one of my best friends since the first grade. Rodney Pressley captured a quick video, in spite of being pelted with candy. (If you listen closely to the video, you’ll also hear his nephew, Kevin, hilariously remind me that I owe him candy.)

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Standing at the corner of of Montrose Avenue, where he’s photographed countless parade moments over the decades, John Floyd captured this shot—proving that trying to throw candy across Fourth Street from the back of a small truck is more awkward than you’d think!

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Photo: John Floyd II

Nearing the judges stand at the end of the route, I noticed this very patriotic lady enjoying the parade.

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At the judges stand, Committee Member Carreen Koubek briefly stopped Jerry’s truck and surprised each of us with a commemorative plaque!

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From there, it was off to Mulberry Street for the classic car show.

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I’m a sucker for the details at these shows, and there were plenty. One of my favorites was the Ford Falcon with vintage Food Town grocery bags in the back seat.

I think our only regret on this day was that we couldn’t drive home in one of those vehicles. Although if Pete has his way, that will soon change… He’s trying to find a ’67 Chevy Biscayne, a ’72 Plymouth Fury, or even a 1980s Impala—which he can modify into a historic Laurel Police car. If you have any leads on such a ride, please contact us!

The weather was perfect, the crowd was great, and Laurel’s 38th Annual Fourth of July Parade was an absolute blast. I know I speak for Kevin and Pete when I say this was a truly enjoyable experience, and one we won’t forget. Our profound thanks to the City of Laurel, and especially those hardworking members of the Fourth of July Committee, who tirelessly seek to raise funds for this special event all year round.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention just how important it is to support this great tradition in the years to come, especially as we near the 40th anniversary. The fireworks display that so many of us enjoy each July costs far more to produce than you’d probably ever suspect—we’re talking $35,000 or more—and it relies on sponsors and donations. Please be sure to visit https://laurel4th.org/ and pitch in what you can—every dollar helps. Laurel’s celebration routinely draws crowds of 50,000 spectators; if each one of us gave just $1.00, next year’s event would be truly epic. If there’s one duty as 2016 Grand Marshals that we’d like to stress, it’s that it’s crucial that we all help Laurel’s Fourth of July Committee continue to carry on this historic tradition.

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Photo: Nate Pesce, Baltimore Sun Media Group

Again, our heartfelt thanks to all who worked to make this year’s celebration a success, as well as everyone who came out to enjoy the festivities. Have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July weekend!

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 Unless otherwise credited, all photos ©Richard Friend.