HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE lined the streets in Longfellow last week to enjoy Columbia's coolest parade. All the regulars showed up for the 31st annual Longfellow Friends of the Traditional 4th parade - Cub Scout Pack 61, the Harper's Choice swim team, members of the Fire Department, police escorts and kids riding decorated bicycles.
"I think it was one of the biggest parades we've ever had," said Bob Russell, one of the organizers.
With financial support from the Harper's Choice Community Association, the parade continues to grow every year.
Columbia Association President Maggie J. Brown served as the parade's grand marshal. Longfellow's recipients of the Good Neighbor Award, Faith and Jim Harkness, waved to the crowd from the back of a convertible, and the Starvation Army Band played Dixieland and jazz from the back of a flatbed truck.
A few imaginative floats were part of the the parade.
The Bunko Babes float had six women seated around a card table in the bed of a pickup truck drinking what appeared to be mimosas.
The truck was decorated with giant replicas of dice and posters promoting the group's 10th anniversary.
Nancy Thomas, an original member of the Bunko Babes, said Bunko is a dice game, and the women on the float represented the 12 regular members of their group, as well as substitutes and "wannabes" who gather on the third Wednesday of each month to share a meal and roll the dice.
Members rotate the group's meeting at their homes. The hostess is responsible for supplying dinner and prizes for that month's game. The players contribute $5 a month toward the cost of the prizes.
"Bunko is all luck," Thomas said. "You have to have maybe a first-grade math education to play. The hardest thing is when you're trying to roll, trying to talk and trying to keep score. I forget to write down the score all the time."
Thomas said all the Bunko Babes have lived in Longfellow at one time or another and share more than a night out once a month.
"Bunko is sort of like a support group," Thomas said. "We talk about schools, our husbands and our kids. At Bunko, we don't have to put up a front. We can be goofy or whatever way we want. We can just be ourselves."
The group is so popular that it has a waiting list for women who want to join. Ann Leffner, one of the original members, said the group offers an opportunity to "share life's miseries and happy times."
The 12 official members of the Bunko Babes are Cindy Ault, Kathy Bonebreak, Heidi Brown, Kim Norris, Sue Levy, Pam Ferrari, Alison Roy-Harrison, Pat Cronin, Jana Rizzo, Jackie Rose, Leffner and Thomas.
Lucia Martin is often called on to substitute for regular members.
"We all have so much in common," she said. "It's kind of like a family."
The Howard County Office on Aging is seeking applicants for a new prescription drug plan, called the State of Maryland Senior Short-Term Rx Plan.
To qualify, you must be a Maryland resident enrolled in Medicare and not have prescription drug coverage.
Gross annual household income limits are $25,770 for an individual and $34,830 for a couple. Participation is limited to 30,000 individuals statewide.
Members will pay a $10 monthly premium for a maximum benefit of $1,000 over 12 months.
Co-payments will be $10 for generic drugs, $20 for preferred brand-name drugs and $35 for nonpreferred brand-name drugs.
If you qualify, call the program administrator, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, at 800-972-4612.
Information: Howard County Senior Information and Assistance, 410-313-7212.
In a summer full of celebrations, the Columbia Association's multicultural fair, Columbia International Day, keeps up the good feeling with activities that celebrate the town's ethnic diversity.
The event will be held from noon to 11 p.m. July 29 at the Town Center lakefront.
Games and entertainment for children are planned from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., including a Moon Bounce, face-painting, caricatures and a puppet show from 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Earth Treks and the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. will provide a climbing wall.
The entertainment includes Ellis Island, the Junkyard Saints, Charm City Klezmer, Jow Ga Chinese Dragon and Lion Dance Troupe, Brazilian Nights, Capari-Cani and Mama Jama.
Volunteers are needed.
Information: Carol Wasser, 410-715-3161.