Langley Park Day celebrates third year
May 3, 2001
Julia Oliver
Special to The Gazette

Sun glinted off the balloons that decked the parking lot stage for the third annual Langley Park Day Sunday. Music blared from the booths of two CD vendors, and kids bounded in and out of the main office to buy tickets for pony rides and the moon bounce. But amidst the sunshine, tunes, and laughter, people were learning at the event held at Langley Park-McCormick Elementary School.

Representatives from the National Institutes of Health tested blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and distributed information about cancer, arthritis, and skin diseases. Representatives from the county's Health Choice Program and Catholic Charities informed visitors about free health care services. The county Health Department Dental Program and the University of Maryland Dental School screened children's teeth for cavities, and adults' mouths for oral cancer.

"We know that it's a Hispanic community, and we know they have concerns with cardiac health," said Subha Chandar of Adventist Health Care, who passed out information on heart disease and blood pressure.

But entertainment was also on tap. On the Folklorico stage, things got hot. La Escuela de Danza Peruviana performed an Afro-Peruvian dance called "Festejo," and "Marinera," the Peruvian national dance. When the group performed "Festejo," which included ample torso gyration, Elmer Sanches, 7, exclaimed, "that's gross...they're moving their hips!" he said.

Among the performers were a Paraguayan harpist, mime acts, Youth In Praise singers, and Flor de Sacuanjohe, which featured traditional Nicaraguan dances.

Children enjoyed the kid-friendly exhibits. Beyond These Walls, an after-school program, encouraged kids to paint what they like about Langley Park. Isabel Rivera, a fifth-grader, produced several works of art. One was of "colorful things," and another was "my name on a tree... but the tree didn't fit."

Early Head Start, Stand for Children, Girl Scouts, Order of DeMolay, The Latino Economic Development Corporation, and Adult ESOL representatives were also at the event.

Dr. Clemencia Vargas from the University's Department of Pediatric Dentistry, set up her station to provide dental advice. "Maryland has one of the highest rates for oral cancer in the country," she said. "Mothers like to have their children's teeth examined. Mothers will line up. They have a lot of questions."

Not all booths were sought out. The Law Foundation of PG County booth provided few pro bono referrals. "They probably are not in a legal frame of mind today--more festive than legal," said Ellen Bigham who manned the booth.

Sheryl Negron, a Spanish outreach coordinator with Legal AID Bureau, came to let people know that the organization has a Spanish line.

Both the county and the Takoma Park police departments were recruiting. "We're having a lot of luck, which is good because we need a lot more Hispanic officers on the street," said county officer Hart.

Along with the Langley Park-McCormick Elementary School and Action Langley Park, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Department of Parks and Recreation sponsored the event. Among Action Langley Park's goals is to help the underserved community "being ignored by the county, and maybe even the state," said Professor William Hanna, who started the group in 1998.