Former President Jimmy Carter will make one of his infrequent political appearances at a May 1 fund-raiser for the Democratic party in Montgomery County. He and his wife, Rosalynn, have agreed to attend a cocktail party before the party's annual Spring Ball.

Nancy Jordan, a spokeswoman for Carter's office in Atlanta, Ga., confirmed that the fund-raiser will be on Carter's itinerary during a visit to Washington. "Both the president and Rosalynn will be stopping by," she said. Local Democratic officials have said Carter has agreed to give a short speech.

Carter's appearance was arranged in part by local real estate developer Nathan Landow, who headed fund-raising for Carter in Maryland during the 1980 election. His visit coincides with meetings in Washington regarding his planned book, said Washington attorney David Rubenstein, a former deputy director of domestic affairs in the Carter administration.

"I think it shows he isn't living in the past," said Rubenstein, who helped coordinate the upcoming trip. He said the former president will make "some introductory remarks, not a full-fledged speech . . . He does want to remain active."

The Spring Ball is held annually at the Indian Spring Country Club in Silver Spring and is normally attended by about 800 people, including most of Maryland's top elected officials.

This year the party will mail 3,500 invitations to the $25 dinner-dance. Guests will be invited to pay an additional $50 to $100 to attend a cocktail gathering before the ball to visit with the Carters. The exact price for the fund-raiser has not been set.

"We are honored and absolutely delighted that Carter has chosen to come to Montgomery County," said Stan Gildenhorn, chairman of the county Democratic Party. "We are optimistic that we will raise a lot of money that we desperately need to run the elections."

Carter workers and Democratic National Committee staff members were quick to say that this visit does not herald a new commitment to fund-raising for Democratic candidates.

Carter met informally with the DNC staff in Washington last October. "There was nothing really implied that he be more active," said Bob Neuman, DNC communications director. "He did say he would participate in some fund-raising for the DNC."

The former president did attend a fund-raiser for Tennessee Sen. Jim Sasser in February, said Carter aide Jordan.

Carter's public appearances have been infrequent since he lost the 1980 election.

He attended the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat last October, along with former Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Richard M. Nixon. He also joined Ford in January in an unsuccessful appeal for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the Georgia legislature.

Democrats in Montgomery County have not been enthusiastic supporters of Carter. In the last election, he trailed Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and in 1976, county Democrats chose California governor Jerry Brown.

But planners of the party's Spring Ball placed the former president first on their list. "We thought about Senators John Glenn and Gary Hart," said D.C. attorney John Hurson, cochairman of the dance committee, "but when Carter accepted we were really satisfied."