Three days of the Ravens Celebration: 'Touchdown Baltimore' introduces the new stadium to the fans.

September 04, 1998|By Judith Forman | Judith Forman,SUN STAFF

Aretha may be out, but Stevie Wonder's in.

Organizers for this weekend's three-day "Touchdown Baltimore" festival celebrating Baltimore's new NFL stadium at Camden Yards had to scramble this week to replace an ill Aretha Franklin as the headline act.

Turns out, Stevie Wonder -- their original first choice -- can come after all. He'll perform tomorrow night at 8, along with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, in a free concert and light show. Actor Richard Belzer of "Homicide" will act as master of ceremonies.

Wonder is "a legendary performer and he has a very, very wide appeal," Tom Williams, a spokesman for the Baltimore Ravens, said yesterday. Williams encouraged concert-goers to take a blanket or lawn chair to the show since it will be held in the new stadium's parking lot.

The three-day celebration begins at 11 a.m. today with a stadium tour open to the public and culminates at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Ravens inaugurate the stadium by taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tomorrow afternoon, fans may take part in 10 interactive NFL Experience activities (each costs $1), including trying to kick an extra point through a regulation goal post and testing their ball-snapping abilities in different football scenarios. Kids will be entertained with an inflatable stadium moon-bounce and a game testing their passing accuracy by throwing junior-sized footballs at life-size player targets.

The new Ravens mascots -- Edgar, Allan and Poe -- will appear throughout the weekend. Edgar is a tough gridiron bird, Allan is the average guy and Poe is roly-poly and funny, said Allyson Yospe, a Ravens spokeswoman.

"Most birds don't travel alone," Yospe said, explaining why the team has three mascots. "Birds of a feather flock together."

Underneath the costumes are two men and one woman -- all Maryland residents -- who auditioned in June. But don't expect to hear a word from the new birds in town: Multiple Ravens representatives emphasized that the birds are tight-beaked and never speak in costume. So, no comment from our fine feathered friends.

Since Monday, the stadium has been draped with a 4,000-pound Raven made out of a square tubular aluminum frame covered in a painted nylon banner cloth. It measures 75 feet wide from wingtip to wingtip and is 51 feet high, said Tony Salerno of Radio City Entertainment, the New York company that is producing the three-day celebration. Constructed in 25 sections in New York, the bird was built to withstand even the strongest winds (should a hurricane choose to blow through this weekend).

The giant Raven will come down after tomorrow night's concert and be stored for future special occasions.

The new 40-member Ravens cheerleading squad (27 women and 13 men) will also be around this weekend. The squad was selected from more than 300 applicants who showed up at Towson University a few months ago to strut their stuff. The team -- made up of an all-female dance group and a male and female stunt squad -- practices three times a week, and each session starts with either a three-mile run or an hour cardiovascular workout.

Wanna know a little more about the pretty people bobbing up and down on the field? Five of the Ravens cheerleaders have performed in the Olympics, four are married and more than 25 percent of them either attend or attended the University of Maryland.

At Sunday's game, 250 musicians and 50 flag-line performers will take the field as Baltimore's Marching Ravens, the artists formerly known as the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, plus a few others. This debut marks the largest band in National Football League history.

The band's new purple and white uniforms are modeled after the Fort McHenry guard uniform -- cadet-style pants and jackets fastened with brass buttons.

"The entire 'Touchdown Baltimore' celebration is a celebration not only of Maryland's football team but of the state and city as well," Yospe said.

'Touchdown Baltimore': The schedule

Three days of free events -- "Touchdown Baltimore" -- will celebrate the official opening of the new stadium at Camden Yards. Here is the schedule; unless otherwise noted, events are at the stadium, 1101 Russell St.

TODAY

Stadium open to public: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

NFL Experience Festival: Noon-8 p.m. Fans can test their football skills at 10 events (each costs $1), from a quarterback challenge to an extra-point kick activity

Music: 12: 30 p.m.-8 p.m., featuring:

Part Harmony (Motown/a capella), 12: 30-1: 30 p.m.

Michaels Stephens Project (jazz), 2-3 p.m.

Joe Cooper Project (reggae); 3: 30-4: 30 p.m.

Rumba Club (tropical/Latin);5-6 p.m.

Kelly Bell Band (blues); 6: 30-8 p.m.

Baltimore Ravens cheerleading clinic: 4-6 p.m. and exhibition: 6: 30 p.m.-7: 30 p.m.

Concert at Inner Harbor Amphitheatrefeatures Laughing Colors, a local alternative rock band, 5-8 p.m.

TOMORROW

Stadium open to public: 9 a.m.-noon USS Raven: the Navy's newest mine hunter will be commissioned at Inner Harbor Amphitheatre at 10 a.m., with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke

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