ROCKVILLE – Once again the title seems to be in error. Although Rockville’s annual Memorial Day celebration is called Hometown Holidays, the attendees included many more than those who call the city home. Among the roughly 60,000 people in attendance were those who traveled from as far as the Midwest to enjoy the party. […]
ROCKVILLE – Once again the title seems to be in error. Although Rockville’s annual Memorial Day celebration is called Hometown Holidays, the attendees included many more than those who call the city home.
Among the roughly 60,000 people in attendance were those who traveled from as far as the Midwest to enjoy the party. Connie Eldridge came from Illinois to visit her son for the weekend – and to enjoy the Rockville celebration.
“Well, I love parades. My son and husband and daughter-in-law are patient with me because they don’t love it as much. But every parade’s unique to the area. We’ve attended parades in Illinois and in Florida. … It’s just like a snapshot of the community,” Eldridge said. “(Rockville is) very diverse. I enjoyed seeing the different cultural groups, and every parade has the politicians and the scout groups, but this was neat.”
The parade included numerous Cub Scout packs, Girl Scout troops, cultural dance groups, Baltimore performers, local politicians and police and firefighters from throughout the county. Throughout the weekend, town center filled with 24 restaurants selling small bites in Taste of Rockville and four stages with dozens of bands and performances. Headlining the performances were the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Delta Rae.
But amid all the celebration and before the parade, Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton also recognized Corp. Jeff King, a double amputee who walked at the head of the parade, as the grand marshal. A 2003 graduate of Richard Montgomery High School, King served in Afghanistan with the Marines until retiring in 2013. He then earned a master of social work degree from the University of Maryland this month.
“What stands out for me this weekend,” Newton said, “was the symbolism of it being our Hometown Holidays and it also being Memorial Day. I think people really got kicking off the summer but also the solemnity of Monday, and there were more people than I’ve seen at the ceremony. I think people respect and appreciate the sacrifices that our service people have given, and this really seemed to bring that home.”
And from the ceremony to the festivities, all the weekend seemed to go off without a hitch – one of the quietest, according to City Police Chief Terry Treschuk.
“I thought Hometown Holidays was an incredible example of why we are the hometown we are,” Newton said. “The weather was perfect, and that contributed greatly, but it really seemed like things worked well from the staff and the setup and the number of people who came and the bands. People seemed to really have a good time.”
The bands were the best part for Lawrence Harmon, who has lived in the D.C. area for eight years and Rockville for four. He had brought his mother out to watch the parade, but said he also loved the setup of going from stage to stage trying out different types of music.
“My favorite part, believe it or not, is the concerts. I mean you have so many different choices, so many different stages that there are, you can kind of get a flavor of the different styles of music all in a couple of minutes. If you don’t like one band, you can go to the next one and just enjoy that,” Harmon said.
He said he has not missed a Hometown Holidays weekend since he moved to Rockville.
“This is one of our favorite times to be in this area, in Rockville,” Harmon said. “We stop at the concerts and have a drink or two and just watch the music a little bit, but we experience the whole thing at the town center. I really like it. It was better before they did all the construction here because there was more things for the kids to do, but, you know what, every year they amaze me with the amount of things they can put into the smaller space. I’m really impressed.”
Council member Tom Moore said he was glad attendance was high, although it seemed less crowded because the activities were more spread out. But the Taste of Rockville tickets sold at record numbers, he was told.
One of the most popular foods was Italian ice, which happens every year, according to Council member Virginia Onley.
“I didn’t even attempt to get into that line. When I attempted to get one, the line was so long, I thought ‘Oh, no, no,’” she said, chuckling.
The high attendance only indicated how the weather and planning combined this year.
“Everybody’s hard work really paid off, and it was a terrific event, maybe the best I’ve seen,” Moore said.