Traditions that smack of substance abuse are fast disappearing in Howard County -- the county that "just says no."

Recently, there was the case of Whiskey Bottom Road Elementary School. It now has a new alcohol-free name, Laurel Woods Elementary School.

In the fall, some of the tie-dyed aficionados of the laid-back, 1960s rock group, The Grateful Dead, had a rude awakening at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. Police arrested 29 on dope-smoking charges and asked Merriweather to stop booking the group.

Now, several county politicians have jumped on the bandwagon by holding no-alcohol fund-raisers with "bartenders" from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

County Council member Angela Beltram (D-District 2) said she stumbled onto the idea a year ago after scheduling a fund-raiser in the Rockland Arts Center and finding she could not serve liquor there.

"Actually, at first, I tried to talk them into selling liquor," Beltram said.

When the alcohol-free event was a success, however, Beltram realized that the link between drinking and politicking was not so hard to break.

This year, with MADD's help, she and County Council Chairman Shane Pendergrass (D-District 1) have both held such events. And County Council member C. Vernon Gray (D-Distict 3) kicked off his campaign with an alcohol-free event. Lawyer James Kraft, who is running for the House of Delegates in District 14B, has also used MADD's services.

Frank Turner, a candidate for a county Orphan's Court judgeship, said alcohol abuse "is something we have to be concerned about -- when you think that accidents caused by drunk drivers have killed more people than we've lost in world wars." He is planning a no-alcohol fund-raiser in August.

The MADD bartenders will be serving soft drinks and punch. "It's worth me not serving alcohol and maybe making somebody unhappy if I can save one life from being lost," Turner said.

Several candidates in places such as the Eastern Shore and Baltimore County also have expressed an interest in banning alcohol from their fund-raisers, said George Layman, legislative liaison for the Howard County chapter of MADD.

The idea is not likely to be embraced everywhere in Maryland.

Del. Cornell N. Dypski (D-Baltimore) said fund-raisers without liquor would probably get a chilly reception in the blue-collar city neighborhood he represents. "This is a city that at one time had 20 breweries. People like a beer around here," he said.

No one is suggesting that liquor has disappeared from the political scene, even in Howard County. Most fund-raising dinners still include an open or cash bar. Even some of those who have held no-alcohol events are not ruling out liquor at future affairs.

"You can't charge somebody $50 {for a fund-raiser} and not serve beer or wine," said Connie Matheson, director of the Columbia Birthday Celebration.

Matheson has been thinking about the subject lately because the annual Columbia City Fair, which she directs, has come under some criticism from Layman and others for serving liquor.

Layman blamed rowdiness at the three-day affair last month on the alcohol that was served. Matheson says the problems were not serious and that she is striving to find ways to promote responsible drinking, such as cutting off liquor sales an hour before the fair ends for the night.

"We could hand out stickers that say 'I'm drinking; I'm not driving' or 'Designated Driver,' but how can you know people aren't drinking?" Matheson asked. "We've even talked about having Breathalyzers on hand right at the fair. We're working hard on this."

Council members Beltram and Gray are looking into the possibility of banishing liquor and tobacco advertising from the county's 40 billboards.