It’s the evening of the big fundraiser for the Fourth of July Celebrations Committee and indications that this is not just another party start well before one reaches the front door of the Catonsville Armory.
The backup starts at the base of the stairs leading up to the door as groups of people converge, all trailing rolling coolers packed to the brim. Igloos jostle with Playmates for position as both young and old Catonsvillians push their way into what has come to be known as the homegrown event of the season.
Welcome to the Unofficial Catonsville Prom, the place to be if you want to reconnect with everyone you’ve ever known since kindergarten.
Tables are grabbed and coolers unpacked as people settle in for a few hours to enjoy the blurring of past and present. Where 50 really is 20, and in the semi-gloom that boy you kissed in high school seems just a little less chunky, and a lot less bald. For many, the admission fee pays for none of the beer or food consumed, as the beer truck may be ignored in favor of the bonanza of alcoholic masterpieces and fat-packed treats taken from the coolers and spread across the plastic covered tables.
Conversations are constantly interrupted with exclamations of greeting as yet another person 'not seen in forever' joins the group. From the perspective of one who knows, I can tell you this is not an evening for extended discussions, as it’s just too easy to get diverted by the incredible people watching opportunities available.
For many of us, this event is a mixing pot of collective memories reaching way, way back. It’s an odd thing, this common history. For example, six years of simple homeroom conversations can lead to an accumulation of extensive dental and medical data, allowing you to possess intimate information about someone you only sat next to for 10 minutes every morning from sixth through 12th grade. Turns out, having last names that both begin with the same letter can lead to more personal knowledge of someone than sharing a tour in ‘Nam.
Let me explain.
Look over there, across the Armory dance floor- that guy is looking good for his age! What a smile. Wait a minute; didn’t he wear braces with full head gear during most of eighth grade? Back then, every time he leaned forward he drooled. Flash forward 30 years to the dance and I still found myself stepping back when he leaned down to tie his shoe.
The band always adds to the nostalgic mood as music from the seventies forward brings everyone out to recreate pop and lock moves not seen for years. This year’s band was Appaloosa, a local group that has been entertaining the residents of Catonsville and the surrounding areas since 1971.
But this event isn’t just for the long-time locals. With a live band and a silent auction you needn’t have been born in this town to have a great time at this event.
Of course, transplants may not be aware of the undercurrent of knowledge swirling around them, which can be a good thing. For example, knowing that the well-groomed guy in his forties standing by the band once set his pants on fire while trying to light a fart at an 11th grade field party off of Devere Lane. Funny? Yes. Good to know? Not necessarily.
All kidding aside, the incredible effort put forth by the Celebrations Committee to provide our town with one of the best July 4th celebrations in the state cannot be underscored enough, and this fundraiser gives the community the chance to contribute to the July festivities while having a great time.
Preparations for the dance start months before, as this is the major fundraising event used to collect the $90,000 or so needed for all of the Fourth of July events, including the parade and fireworks. Money collected from the dance provides approximately $20,000 of the funds needed. Other funds are collected through t-shirt sales, ads placed in the program, and a bucket brigade held the day of the parade.
Rose Edwards, current chairwoman of the committee, is grateful to all who attend. “I think this event is fantastic- it brings people together after a long winter,” said Edwards.
"It’s a good way to say ‘Here we are again!’ And everyone knows each other so it’s a great time.”
The committee’s co-chair, Dyann Moree, is also happy to be part of such a wonderful community.
“The residents of Catonsville are the most incredible, giving people. Unlike other town’s Fourth of July Committees, we never have a problem reaching our goal. And that’s because of the people of our village.”
Tom Connor, a member of the Celebrations Committee since 1959, has seen enthusiasm for the Committee’s activities ebb and flow throughout the years. “These dances have been extremely successful the last 5- 10 years,” Connor noted. “I think that’s because the current Committee has a strong, young group of committed volunteers.”
The evening winds to a close, as one by one people pack up their coolers and their Thriller moves and head out the door. Between the proceeds collected from ticket sales and the very successful silent auction, this dance has once again proven to be a fundraising success.
July may be months away, but tonight’s fun has provided everyone with a little glimpse of summer vacation.