Megan Ridgell giggled the first time she dumped her daddy into the drink yesterday. "I got wet," Trooper 1st Class Mike Ridgell roared as he climbed back to his perch, water pouring from his sopping khaki uniform and battered straw Stetson.
Megan, 3 1/2 , wasn't a bit intimidated, however. She laughed when she dunked him again, and then again, with a softball dead on target.
"Dunk-A-Trooper" was a moment of family fun for the Ridgells and the most popular event at an open house at the Golden Ring Barracks of the Maryland State Police near Middle River, a block party for neighbors to meet various state and local law enforcement and public safety agencies.
Most citizens' contact with troopers is under adverse circumstances -- an accident, a breakdown or a ticket, said Maj. George Hall, supervisor for Baltimore, Harford and Cecil counties. "We want them to see that we're real people. We're a customer-oriented service, and we want to make a quality-of-life improvement for the people we serve," Hall said.
Sgt. Craig L. Thompson, with Trooper 1st Class Elizabeth Becker, a flight paramedic, clattered in to land beside the barracks off Martin Boulevard. Children and adults clustered around, full of questions, as soon as the helicopter rotor stopped.
"They always want to know how fast we can go and how many we have," Thompson said. Meanwhile, Becker explained how MedEvac cases are handled from accident scenes to hospitals. Eleven helicopters can travel up to 200 mph.
"I want to fly it one day," declared Joe Grinage, 8, of Essex. His mother, Becky, brought her five children because, she said, "They enjoy these things and they all have aspirations to go into public service some day."
Dineen Sheuerman of Essex brought her daughter, Brandri, 3, to be fingerprinted. "Everybody should do it. You hear about people taking kids, and it scares me. We watch her like a hawk."
Baltimore County Police and Fire Department equipment was on hand, along with a Department of Natural Resources wildlife display and a robot from the state fire marshal's office used to deal with possible bombs.
Trooper 1st Class Anthony Thomas, from the College Park Barracks, drew a lot of interest with some of the SWAT team's hardware -- battering rams, shields, helmets, bulletproof vests and rifles.
Josh Drumheller, 12, looked at the gear and said, "I'm in the NRA; I've fired an M-16; it has great stopping power. I'm planning to be a Navy or Air Force pilot."
The Essex youth was seen later bouncing in the driver's seat of Engine No. 12, wearing a firefighter's helmet and making motor noises. "It's really cool in the fire engine," he said.
Firefighter Bill Sexton said, "I don't know why but the little kids love the engine. They used to be afraid of it because it's big and noisy, but not now. We show them that it's here to help them."
Copo the Magic Clown -- aka Trooper Douglas Cawman -- was a big hit in his white-and-red makeup and baggy, varicolored suit, twisting balloons into crowns, flowers, swords and animals. "I've been doing this for six years and I love it."
As Copo twisted balloons for Janet Wisner's three daughters, ages 20 months to 6 years, the Carney woman said, "It's good that they learn to be comfortable around police. They can be kind of intimidating."
Golden Ring commander Lt. Michael E. Davey said proceeds from a raffle, the dunking booth and food and beverage sales will go to the Young Parents Support Center of Middle River, which works through the Baltimore County Department of Social Services to help young families.
Pub Date: 8/10/97