The idea was Bryston Armstrong's.
After attending a parade at his grandfather's in Hampton, Va., the 9-year-old Germantown boy asked his mother last year: "Gee, Mom, we always come here to see parades. Why can't we have one in Germantown?"
Why not, thought his mother, Michelle Deneke. There had been fireworks since 1996. But a Fourth of July parade in 1993 had failed to take root.
Germantown was growing up, though. Less and less a transient community of town houses, it was now a place where young people stayed, a place with more detached homes, a planned town center development, cultural institutions and a better sense of itself as a community.
On Saturday, Germantown will host its second annual Independence Day parade--in some ways more important than last year's--with floats, music, TV personalities, politicians, and, now, the sprout of a tradition.
Called "Germantown Glory," it starts near the MARC train station at 5 p.m. and proceeds along Walter Johnson Road, Wisteria Drive and Great Seneca Highway to Seneca Valley High School and an evening fireworks display.
"Germantown is where it's at these days," said Nancy Dacek, the Montgomery County Council member who represents the area. "There are lots of things happening up there. I think it's quite exciting. Even beyond the parade.
"I think you're seeing a major growing up of the community," she added.
In 1970, Germantown was a farming area with a population of about 3,000--a place many passed through, heading somewhere else.
"Thirty years ago, there weren't enough people in Germantown to be in a parade and watch it, too," said Kimberly Ferrell, chairman of the parade's finance and marketing committee. Now the population is almost 70,000, Ferrell said, and if Germantown were to incorporate, it would be the second-largest municipality in the state, behind Baltimore.
"We felt that we deserved a parade," Ferrell said. "Sometimes it takes citizens to care about their community to start a tradition and make the residents of that town or community feel like they're part of something."
So they did. Acting on Bryston Armstrong's query, his mother, who admits, "I knew nothing about parades, nothing," and other community activists whipped together last year's inaugural event in about three months.
Fueled by about $1,000 of Michelle Deneke's own money, input from her son--"I made him go to the [planning] meetings"--and a gaggle of politicians in an election year, the parade drew about 50 units and thousands of spectators and was a resounding success.
Bryston, a fifth-grader at Sally Ride Elementary School, was named "King Germantown," and marched in a sash and white tuxedo. "It did so much for his ego," his mother said. "He was really feeling good about himself."
This year has been harder. "The parade is still new," Deneke said. Plus, the politicians are fewer, thinned out by the election. And the parade's novelty has worn off a bit. But Deneke and the other organizers were determined to continue the tradition.
She started preparing three months earlier, and responses were slow at first. Lately though interest has boomed. Thirty-five units have signed up, with more expected right up to the parade's eve.
Among them will be local orthodontist Kurt Pierce, with his borrowed hay wagon laden with patients tossing toy whistles to bystanders, and decorated with trimming showing a set of giant teeth wearing braces.
The parade is "kind of going hand-in-hand with the development of our town center and the real development of Germantown as a community and not just a town house and apartment place," said Pierce, 40, who grew up in Rockville and used to go hunting with his father in Germantown when it was wilderness and he was a child.
"There are people now who are getting married and graduating from high school here and they're calling their hometown Germantown," he said. "Before, it was just a stepping stone, until they moved somewhere else. So that's kind of neat."
Saturday's parade will include, for the first time, a delegation from the new Germantown cultural arts center, which is scheduled to open in 2001 with a theater, galleries and art studios, and which will display its official name: the Black Rock Center for the Arts.
The name, just revealed publicly, came from a resident suggestion, said Linda Sullivan, the center's executive director. The name comes from a kind of local sandstone. "This is our first really big public event," she said. "We want to let everyone know it's coming."
Also marching will be representatives of sports, church and civic groups, local schools, especially Seneca Valley High School, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and businesses.
The Seneca Valley Steppers will demonstrate the highly choreographed, hand-clapping, foot-stomping art of stepping, which was born in African American college fraternities and has become something of a competitive sport. It has to be seen to be believed, said the team's proud coordinator and sponsor, D. Michael Malry.
Even the county's division of solid waste services will be represented, in the form of a recycling-mobile, painted with recycling scenes, and a recycling pickup truck painted the blue color of a recycling bin.
The recycling-mobile is actually a "decommissioned bookmobile," said Susanne Brunhart, program manager for volunteers in the county's recycling/composting program, and as such has, itself, been recycled.
The parade also will feature a special U.S. Postal Service one-time cancellation mark. Special stamped envelopes and cancellations will be available at a post office booth at the parade.
"A special cancellation is usually a collector's item," said acting Germantown Postmaster Bruce Wall. "It's kind of like saying, 'Hey, I was part of this celebration.' We're very proud to be part of it."
CAPTION: Bryston Armstrong, 10, suggested a parade last year, and his mom made it happen. They have worked on this year's, too.