Queen's visit has Baltimore simply humming

May 12, 1991|By Jean Marbella

English protocol and Irish protesters. Red carpets at Memorial Stadium and baseball souvenirs for the royal grandchildren. Briefings on etiquette for the ballplayers and an introduction to .. America's pastime for Britain's monarch.

These collisions of cultures can only mean one thing: Baltimore's version of Queen for the Day.

Or, rather, Queen for the Hour or Two on Wednesday Evening, when the city welcomes Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

The Royals, who will be accompanied by President Bush and his wife, Barbara, will visit Memorial Stadium to watch the Orioles play the Oakland Athletics.

About five weeks of planning have gone into this short visit, with officials working out tight security, accommodations and handling the general rush of interest in British royalty.

"British people are very attached to their royalty, particularly the queen," said Ronald Dowell, a retired accountant in Towson who left his native Scotland in 1967 to move with his American wife to the United States. "But [America's] fascination with the royal family -- that I don't understand at all. Here we are the great democracy, and people are falling all over themselves for invitations to royal events."

While few commoners will get anywhere near the queen during her first baseball game, the trip has many in Baltimore -- expatriate Britons and Americans alike -- flocking to the stadium. By Friday, more than 25,000 tickets to the game had been sold, with officials at the 53,371-capacity stadium expecting brisk sales these next few days.

"From the moment it was announced, tickets started selling," said Charlie Jasper, an operations consultant who has worked at the stadium since it opened in 1954. "It's caused more excitement than I've ever seen over here. The employees, especially the girls, are absolutely bubbling. But I have heard some say they'd rather see Princess Di."

The players, now on a road trip, will be briefed on their return on proper etiquette, said O's spokesman Rick Vaughn. "It's just a couple of things, not anything major, just how to address her," Mr. Vaughn said. ("Your Majesty" and "Ma'am" are the British preferences.)

Elsewhere, Baltimoreans have been calling City Hall asking to meet the queen, or at least sing for her.

"It's a real Baltimore thing. We have all these people calling us -- one woman wanted to sing 'God Save the Queen' for her; parents wanted their girls to present her with flowers," said Lee Tawney, the city's director of international programs. "It's very 00 sweet. It's very Baltimore."

All such requests had to be declined, however regretfully. Mr. Tawney said the city isn't actually host for the visit -- the president is the official host -- so it has little say.

While details are still being ironed out, the queen and her party are expected to fly by helicopter from Washington to Baltimore and arrive about 6:45 p.m., reaching the stadium at 7 p.m.

She'll receive gifts from the city and the Orioles. Rather than something for herself, the queen suggested something for her ++ grandchildren, so the Orioles are giving her baseball-related souvenirs, Mr. Vaughn said.

While it will be difficult to get a good view of the queen from the farther reaches of the stadium, the television screen in right field will capture the action.

"There is some fear among people that they won't get to see her at all," Mr. Vaughn said, "so we plan to show her meeting the players, and maybe some other scenes, on Diamond Vision."

A choral group from Bryn Mawr School -- selected from the dozens of groups offering their services -- will sing both nations' anthems, and then the game will begin.

Many in the stadium, however, will be watching her watch the game.

"I came all the way over to America, and this will be the first time I've seen her," said Cecilia Firstenberg, a transplanted Scot. "I even lived in London for 12 years. When you live there, I guess you take your royalty for granted. But I get nostalgic about home sometimes, so this should be fun."

Other local residents with British ties are eagerly awaiting their queen's visit.

"I'm excited; I wish I could meet her and have tea with her. I'm very fond of her," said Baba Whisler, a business teacher at the Community College of Baltimore who is from the former British colony of Botswana. "Wait until you see her -- there's a sort of magnet to her because of her grace, the way she carries herself."

Ms. Whisler recalled the queen's visit to her village in Botswana in the late 1960s.

"Everything stopped; all the stores closed. All of the students had to line up in the hot sun and listen to her speak about changes in Botswana. We were readying to get our independence from the British at the time," she said.

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