Dun­dalk braves pan­demic, cel­e­brates in­de­pen­dence

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE URSERY murs­ery@ches­pub.com

DUN­DALK — The COVID-19 pan­demic forced com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try to can­cel all In­de­pen­dence Day Week­end fes­tiv­i­ties. Dun­dalk is not one of those com­mu­ni­ties.

Re­stric­tions put in place as a re­sponse to the pan­demic forced the Dun­dalk In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade Com­mit­tee to can­cel the tra­di­tional In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade. For 85 years, the pa­rade went on with­out a hitch, fea­tur­ing prom­i­nent guests from Bal­ti­more County and the state of Mary­land.

This year, how­ever, the com­mit­tee had to make a choice – do noth­ing, or im­pro­vise and still give Dun­dalkians some sem­blance of a nor­mal Fourth of

July in south­east­ern Bal­ti­more County. The Dun­dalk Her­itage Fair was can­celed, as was the fire­works dis­play and the July 4 6K race.

Dun­dalk In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade Com­mit­tee co-chair Will Feuer said he was “wowed” by the re­ac­tion to the com­mu­nity car­a­van.

“We were ex­cited and hum­bled by the amount of peo­ple we saw lin­ing the streets wait­ing for the car­a­van to pass by,” Feuer said. “We knew we had lim­its on our size, but de­spite that we feel we had a great show­case of our lo­cal busi­nesses and com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions. Of the 42 en­tries, only four were not able to make it out that morn­ing.”

Feuer said that the com­mit­tee had made a com­mit­ment to put on a cel­e­bra­tion for the July 4 hol­i­day at the be­gin­ning of the year. By March, they knew they would have to adapt if they wanted to hold them­selves to that com­mit­ment, he said.

On June 18, the com­mit­tee was told that their re­quest for a per­mit had been denied by the Bal­ti­more County Gov­ern­ment. Feuer said the com­mit­tee was told that same day by the Bal­ti­more County Po­lice Depart­ment that it could have a com­mu­nity car­a­van, but with lim­i­ta­tions.

“That af­ter­noon we be­gan mak­ing calls, and within a lit­tle over two weeks, we had par­tic­i­pants, con­vert­ibles, a new route, a lineup or­der, a stag­ing area, and trail­ers to pull cos­tumed char­ac­ters (since no one could walk),” Feuer said.

July 4 was also dif­fer­ent this year in that it was the first In­de­pen­dence Day in many, many years with­out beloved lo­cal icon Joe Falbo, the late Dun­dalk Her­itage As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent who passed away un­ex­pect­edly last Novem­ber. Falbo was many things to many peo­ple in Dun­dalk, as he was ac­tive in youth re­cre­ation, the Dun­dalk Her­itage Fair and In­de­pen­dence Day fire­works.

“We know Joe is watch­ing over us and we hope to make him proud, even dur­ing these dif­fi­cult times,” com­mit­tee co-chair Will Feuer said in a let­ter to the Ea­gle. “The Pa­rade Com­mit­tee honors his mem­ory and we rec­og­nize all that he has done for Dun­dalk with an en­try in the Car­a­van.”

The heat set in long be­fore 9:30 a.m., when the pa­rade started, but that didn’t stop small groups of peo­ple from sit­ting along the route with lawn chairs, wa­ter, sun­block and snacks. Some peo­ple in at­ten­dance said it shows Dun­dalk’s re­silience and pa­tri­o­tism, while oth­ers said that July 4 just did not feel the same.

“I think they’ve done a great job,” said Melissa May­nard, talk­ing about the pa­rade com­mit­tee. “The Fourth of July is a big deal. I’m not from Dun­dalk, but I’ve lived here for al­most 18 years. It’s been proven over and over ev­ery year how much Dun­dalk is pa­tri­otic and I think it’s great that they’re try­ing to do this.”

“I’m happy about it, be­cause I didn’t want to miss the pa­rade, ”Laura Wal­lace said. “I’m ex­cited they’re do­ing some­thing, but I wish we had our nor­mal pa­rade.”

The com­mu­nity car­a­van made its way down Wise Av­enue to be­gin the pa­rade. Cross­ing over Mer­ritt Boule­vard, the car­a­van par­tic­i­pants con­tin­ued down Ho­labird Av­enue, mak­ing a right turn onto Del­vale Av­enue and con­tin­u­ing to Ger­man Hill Road.

The car­a­van made a right turn onto Ger­man Hill Road and made its way back to­wards Mer­ritt Boule­vard, turn­ing right onto it and trav­el­ing down un­til reach­ing Sollers Point Road. From there, car­a­van par­tic­i­pants trav­eled down to the traf­fic cir­cle in Watersedge, us­ing it to nav­i­gate to Dun­dalk Av­enue. The car­a­van turned onto Dun­man­way and took a few more turns be­fore ar­riv­ing at the end point in front of Dun­dalk El­e­men­tary School.

“We’re su­per happy they’re still try­ing to do some­thing,” said Edge­mere res­i­dent Kelsey Ader. “I think the fact that they ex­tended it made it so that you can so­cially dis­tance while still be­ing able to en­joy it.”

“I wish there were more peo­ple out here sup­port­ing it. If they go through the ef­fort to set it up, it would be nice to have some­what of a crowd, even though you still need to so­cially dis­tance.”

Car­a­van par­tic­i­pants in­cluded, but was not lim­ited to, the Dun­dalk Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 38 Honor Guard, Bal­ti­more Bat­man and his Bat­mo­bile, lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist John Melzer and his buddy Shaun the Sheep, Irene Spatafore and An­gels Sup­port­ing Our Troops, the Greater Dun­dalk Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Dun­dalk Re­nais­sance Cor­po­ra­tion, Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, the Dun­dalk-Pat­ap­sco Neck His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, Clean Bread and Cheese Creek, and many, many more.

“This com­mu­nity never fails to give back,” said Ed Peter­son, a Dun­dalk res­i­dent and Viet­nam veteran. “I grew up a block-anda-half from [Dun­dalk Av­enue], and the pa­rade was a part of the fam­ily ev­ery year.”

“The hard work they put into it ever y year does mean a lot. What more could you do? They went out of their way and it’s well or­ga­nized. It’s just some­thing that needed to be done.”

Once the pa­rade ended, some peo­ple re­mained be­hind in Her­itage Park, where Soup for the Soul handed out free boxes of food to peo­ple in need ear­lier in the day. A DJ was set up un­der the pavil­ion in the park. Peo­ple set up chairs in the shade and took in the sounds, or en­joyed the breeze that day with­out tak­ing in the di­rect heat from the sun.

“I think it was great,” said Sierra Cac­cav­ale about the com­mu­nity car­a­van. “I didn’t think they were go­ing to do any­thing, but they did. I’m happy they did.”

Cac­cav­ale said that the top goal that day, and ev­ery day, is to keep peo­ple safe, adding that the past few months dur­ing the pan­demic have been “crazy.” Other peo­ple who watched the pa­rade that day agreed.

“It doesn’t feel like the Fourth of July,” Ader said. “I tell ev­ery­one the same thing, that usu­ally the

Fourth of July is the best thing that Dun­dalk does.”

“Usu­ally, you come out here and you see that ev­ery­one is decked out, and it’s al­most like a ghost town right now.”

Feuer said that tra­di­tion is im­por­tant to Dun­dalk, and the com­mit­tee is ec­static that it was able to de­liver de­spite it not be­ing a “tra­di­tional” pa­rade.

“This marks the 86th con­sec­u­tive event to cel­e­brate In­de­pen­dence Day in Dun­dalk,” Feuer said. “I per­son­ally loved see­ing the smil­ing faces on the kids, and adults!, as we passed by.”

Feuer said that the com­mit­tee now knows it has a fall­back op­tion if the Dun­dalk In­de­pen­dence Day Pa­rade is ever can­celled again in the fu­ture. The com­mit­tee hopes that doesn’t hap­pen, he said.

PHOTO BY MIKE URSERY

A woman dressed as the Statue of Lib­erty stands in the back of a pickup truck and waves at pa­rade watch­ers dur­ing the July 4 Dun­dalk In­de­pen­dence Day com­mu­nity car­a­van. The car­a­van was or­ga­nized as an al­ter­na­tive due to the tra­di­tional pa­rade be­ing can­celed, due to state and county re­stric­tions.

The Bal­ti­more Blast cheer­lead­ers were es­corted through the car­a­van in two mil­i­tary-style highly-mo­bile multi-wheeled ve­hi­cles (HMMWV).

PHO­TOS BY MIKE URSERY

The Miller Broth­ers 1926 Model T Ford Truck es­cort­ing Mar­lene Miller Ry­dzewski was near the front of the com­mu­nity car­a­van.

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