For the 125th annual Takoma Park Independence Day Parade and Fireworks, longtime resident Pat Rumbaugh wants to make the event more play-filled than usual.
Rumbaugh, who was a physical education teacher and tennis coach at Washington International School for more than 25 years, started attending the annual event when her family moved to Takoma Park some 27 years ago. In recent years, the route has paraded by her home on Maple Avenue, where she has held court with a watch station that includes games such as hopscotch and other activities.
This Fourth of July, Rumbaugh, known as “The Play Lady,” will lead the parade as grand marshal. She hopes to have a group of adults and children giving out squishy balls and depicting different forms of play, from hula-hooping to riding bicycles, scooters and even a unicycle.
“It’s a great parade that is fun for the entire community,” Rumbaugh said. “The organizers really strive to have diversity and make it interesting.”
There will be some 80 units in the parade, ranging from a single local official to a 30-piece band and large group of dancers. Typically, about 10,000 people in total view the parade along Carroll and Maple avenues and other streets and attend the evening program at Takoma Park Middle School that includes bands and fireworks, said parade organizer Mary Anne Miles.
“But since July 4th is a Friday, we expect more people to come out for the evening program and fireworks,” she said.
Takoma Park has one of the longest-running parades on the East Coast, with this edition marking the 125th consecutive year of some form of celebration on Independence Day, according to the parade committee’s website. There have been years when the parade or fireworks were canceled due to weather or wartime conditions, but there has still been a celebration.
A new unit for this year will be the Takoma Park Kinetic Sculpture Racing Team, displaying a kinetic sculpture of a 13-foot-high dog, Miles said. “That should be a really interesting one,” she said.
There will be Scouts, bands and drummers from various cultures, Ronald McDonald, fire trucks and more. Past parades have featured a group dressed like space explorers, skits and a float shaped like a Hummer named the “Weapon of Mass Consumption.”
The city funds about 40 percent of the celebration’s costs, with money from private donations, vendors and selling raffle tickets covering the rest.
Rumbaugh welcomes people to join her group in the parade by meeting by 9:15 a.m. at Carroll and Grant avenues. Those who wish to join her should contact her at email@example.com to let her know what they plan to do. She also plans to have the watch station on her front yard, sponsored by Takoma Plays, a group she founded in 2009 to promote the concept of play.
“Kids don’t get outside enough these days for free play,” said Rumbaugh, who also has written a children’s book, Let’s Play at the Playground. “Many kids are inside playing video games a lot, or they only play organized sports. They don’t really learn the art of negotiating and organizing their own games and teams.”
Takoma Plays organizes regular events, including the sixth annual Day of Play slated for Sept. 27 at Takoma Park Middle School. The group has received support from city officials, which is a key factor for the organization’s growth, Rumbaugh said.
“People always tell me the events are a lot of fun,” she said. “That makes it worthwhile to continue what I’m doing.”