TALBOTT SPRINGS Elementary kicked off the school year with a swinging back-to-school family picnic Thursdayevening.
A jazz band, cheerleaders and a limbo contest entertained the crowd.
Families sat on blankets and ate picnic dinners. Face-painters decorated children. Parents and teachers chatted.
"It was great. People just brought a blanket, their dinner and had a lot of fun," said Marijane Monck, a teacher at the school.
This is the third year that the Oakland Mills school has held a picnic to celebrate the beginning of the fall term. The celebrations began in 1997, when Rachel K. Slacum came on board as the school's principal. She was looking for an ice-breaker to introduce parents and teachers to one another in an informal setting.
During a brainstorming session, Slacum and her staff came up with the idea for a picnic.
Newcomers to Talbott Springs -- students, parents and teachers -- all receive a warm welcome at the picnic.
"It's a great success," Slacum said. "Nearly everyone comes out. Each year just gets better."
The evening began with a spirited demonstration by Oakland Mills High School cheerleaders, under the direction of coach Robin Page. Aspiring cheerleaders watched with rapt attention.
Page, of Owen Brown, has coached cheerleaders at Oakland Mills High School for nine years. Her teams have received high rankings in national competitions.
Some of her former students are on the Baltimore Ravens' cheerleading squad.
Performing for the second time at a Talbott Springs picnic was the Annapolis-based Unified Jazz Ensemble -- a quartet of musicians who educate as they entertain.
"We jazz up familiar songs like 'You Are My Sunshine' to introduce kids to the music," said Mike Noonan, spokesman for the band who also plays vibes.
The ensemble also plays music by Duke Ellington and Thelonius Monk.
As part of the show, Noonan explains that building a song is like building a house. Then each member of the band talks about his instrument and the role it plays in a musical piece.
John Pineda likes to plunk out the low notes on his stand-up bass before the other instruments join in.
"The bass is like the foundation," Noonan says. "Without it, the song collapses."
Saxophonist Jeff Antoniuk and drummer Marty Morrison demonstrate melody and rhythm.
Noonan said he sees kids and their parents at the band's regular Wednesday night gig at 49 West -- a coffeehouse in Annapolis.
The evening concluded with popular back-wrenching activity for flexible children and reluctant but amused adults -- the limbo contest. Instrumental teacher Karen Alexander directed the school band while contestants danced their way under the bar.
A wonderful time
This year, Gifted and Talented Program resource teacher Carrye Jones chaired the Talbott Springs back-to-school committee and was master of ceremonies for the picnic.
Monck handled publicity.
Speech pathologist Jane Diggs was door-prize coordinator. Art teacher Sharon Higdon painted faces, and kindergarten instructional assistant Donna Mizia recruited the cheerleaders to perform.
Second-grade teacher Vince D'Antuano ran the popcorn machine and set up the drinks that were donated by McDonald's, a school business partner.
Piccolo's restaurant, the Brunswick bowling center, Vennari's Pizza and Nika's Hair Studio contributed prizes.
The PTA provided snacks.
Parents, teachers and school staff helped with tickets for door prizes.
Custodians Theodore George and Rosina Williams made sure the evening ran smoothly. George drew up a floor plan and had the tables, chairs and power connections in place before the first guest arrived.
Then Williams and George had the fields clean again in short order after the last guest left.
An absent friend
Arbitron -- a national radio rating company based in Kings Contrivance -- has been abusiness partner of Talbott Springs Elementary during Slacum's tenure as principal. The company was unable to participate in the picnic this year. At last year's event, the company's human resources department set up a booth to take job applications from adults in the school community.
"Any activity they have we try to get involved in," says Sharon Riley, coordinator for Arbitron's business partner program.
The company has donated furniture, books for the library, office supplies and money to the school. "It's amazing how once you get started, you can find so many ways to help," Riley said.
The most precious gift to the school has been one-on-one reading with the children.
For the past three years, 13 Arbitron employees have come to the school each week to give an hour of personal attention to young readers.
"We always felt this is the best hour of our week," Riley said.
Long Reach parades
On Saturday, the Village of Long Reach will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Country Fair with an opening parade.
Beginning at 10 a.m., marchers will leave the parking lot of Phelps Luck Elementary School, head down High Tor Hill, turn left on Tamar Drive and march into the parking lot of Long Reach Village Center.
The route -- which will be closed to traffic during the parade -- will be marked with signs.
Officer Lisa Myers will be honored with the title of grand marshal. Myers is the Howard County police officer assigned to the Long Reach police satellite office.
She has been an ardent supporter of community safety.
The parade will be led by the Police Department and Boy Scout honor guards.
Fire trucks and police motorcycles will escort neighborhood Scout troops and community groups.
Second District Councilman C. Vernon Gray, Columbia Council Representative Cecilia Januszkiewicz and members of the Long Reach Village Board will ride in cars and floats and toss candy to spectators.
Children and adults are invited to join the parade on decorated bicycles.
The first 50 children will receive commemorative T-shirts.
Streamers will be available by 9 a.m. at the Phelps Luck parking lot. Children must wear bicycle helmets to ride.
Pub Date: 9/07/99