Ports America Chesapeake 4th of July Celebration. Photo by Jim Schuyler, via the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

After a two-year absence, Fourth of July fireworks are coming back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Mayor Brandon Scott announced today that the city has put together a day of activities to mark the holiday, starting with a Pet Parade at the American Visionary Art Museum at 9 a.m. and culminating with fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

“I am genuinely excited to announce that our Fourth of July celebration, including fireworks, will be back and bigger than ever for Summer 2022,” Scott said during a briefing at the World Trade Center Baltimore.

“There are so many memories that people and families have of being in the Inner Harbor, watching the fireworks,” Scott said. “It has been extremely long, almost three years now, and I am thrilled to welcome residents and visitors from all over the region back downtown to the harbor for a fun-filled day celebrating our nation’s independence.”

The last year Baltimore had Inner Harbor fireworks was 2019. Past celebrations have drawn upwards of 100,000 people to the city’s waterfront. Fourth of July celebrations in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled primarily due to public health concerns about large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the advent of vaccinations more than a year ago, public activities such as fireworks displays have largely resumed in Maryland and around the country after 2020 lockdowns, even though case numbers continue to rise and fall.

Scott and his health department advisors have been cautious about reopening the city too quickly, postponing events such as the annual Artscape festival. In his remarks today, Scott addressed public health concerns indirectly.

“I think I speak for all when I say this is something that we have all been waiting to safely return to for our enjoyment,” he said. “We know, especially in the summertime, folks are looking to have a good time, to be around good people, to see the beauty of our city, and there is no better place to do that than our Inner Harbor.”

The Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore are collaborating on this year’s evening programing. Other participants include the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore; the Baltimore Orioles; the American Visionary Art Museum; the National Aquarium in Baltimore and WJZ. WJZ was introduced as the media partner for the fireworks and will broadcast them live.

In addition to a 13-minute fireworks display, events this year include concerts by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Navy Band Commodores, the U. S. Navy’s oldest band; a “family-friendly” picnic, and a reading by the artist known as Wordsmith of Frederick Douglass’ pre-Civil War speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Douglass delivered his speech in 1852 at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York, to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society. Scott noted that the reading has been included in this year’s events as part of an effort by the city to add context and give a more complete view of history.

“We know that the history of this country and our city is one that we have to tell the complete history of and make this event more open, more welcome, more cognizant of everything that has happened and how everyone that was alive felt at that time,” he said.

The schedule includes the Pet Parade and Animal Talent Show at the American Visionary Art Museum at 9 a.m.; the Orioles versus Texas Rangers baseball game at Oriole Park at 1:05 p.m. with the National Anthem performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and the Navy Band Commodores’ 2.5 hour-performance at the Harborplace amphitheater, Pratt and Light streets, at 4 p.m.

The evening activities include street performers at 6:30 p.m.; the spoken-word performance of Douglass’ speech from the BGE Pavilion mainstage on Rash Field at 7 p.m.; the picnic at the Top of the World Observation Deck at 7:30 pm., a “Star Spangled Celebration” concert by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Rash Field at 8 p.m. and the fireworks accompanied by the BSO at 9:30 p.m.

The BSO performance on Rash Field is sponsored by PNC Bank and will be led by assistant conductor Jonathan Rush. The fireworks display will be produced by Pyrotecnico. The pet parade and talent show, which is resuming after several years off, will start with registration at 8:30 a.m. and include a moment of silence for animals lost, including “war dogs and porpoises.”

Representatives for the Downtown Partnership, the Waterfront Partnership and the symphony urged area residents to come downtown Baltimore on the Fourth. Organizers said local food trucks will be stationed on West Shore Park and ticketholders to the Orioles game on July 4 will be able to extend their stadium parking through the evening at no extra cost so they can watch the fireworks.

“Please, everyone. Come down. Celebrate July Fourth. Be together in person, celebrating Baltimore as a community,” said Laurie Schwartz, president and CEO of the Waterfront Partnership.

“We want to see everybody around downtown,” said Shelonda Stokes, president of the Downtown Partnership. “This is Baltimore’s celebration and we’re excited to be a part… Book a hotel, make a reservation, get a kayak, do whatever you have to do to be here…I promise, you don’t want to miss this one.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.