Ravens fans kick off festival Thousands launch weekend dedicated to stadium premiere

September 05, 1998|By Alec Klein | Alec Klein,SUN STAFF

A fanatic, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, is "a person whose extreme zeal, piety, etc. goes beyond what is reasonable."

For a Baltimore definition, please refer to those in attendance at yesterday's opening of a three-day "Touchdown Baltimore" festival celebrating Baltimore's new stadium at Camden Yards, the final event before tomorrow's premiere against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

By the thousands, fans came in all shapes to the festival, a free event staged in the stadium's parking lot. There was 11-year-old Brian Chismar, who traveled three hours round-trip with his folks from Lancaster, Pa., just to see the new $223 million stadium. His assessment: "I like it."

There was 44-year-old Bob Supan of Rockville, a professional entertainer hired for the occasion by the Ravens, wearing purple and gold war paint on his face and a Ravens jersey with the name "FANATIC FAN" emblazoned across his back. "You want ferocity, or what?" he asked. Before an answer could be provided, he bellowed: "No. 1!"

And then there were fans such as season-ticket holder Martine Kline, 33, of Harford County. Even behind her sunglasses, Kline could not hide her reverence for a place that reminded her of the good old football days when Baltimore was graced with the championship Colts.

"I'm mesmerized," she said. "It's thrilling because my father had season Colts tickets. It's just exciting. I remember coming when I was little. I want to experience it again."

Kline shared that experience with her two children, Alex, 5, and Amanda, 7, who pranced through the festival in the Ravens parking lot. At least for a moment, they imagined themselves as strapping Ravens players when they propped their heads on headless mannequins decked out in No. 98 uniforms, posed in running stances.

The weekend event, staged by the Ravens, Maryland Stadium Authority and the city, is the culmination of months of buildup to tomorrow's sellout season opener. Beginning in July, there was operation "Superflush," when the Ravens enlisted about 700 volunteers to test the stadium's bathroom plumbing. Then came an open house for season-ticket holders, which was followed by two preseason home games.

And now this: Five nuns, who requested to remain anonymous, walked through yesterday's festival.

"It's for the entire community to join in the celebration in the opening of the facility over at Camden Yards," said Tom Williams, a consultant with Trahan, Burden & Charles Inc., the Ravens' public relations firm.

Loudspeakers blared the song "YMCA." Standing 8-foot-6-inches on stilts, 26-year-old Robert K. Strong played the part of a referee in a zebra shirt. "What stilts?" he said.

There were Popsicles, Good Humor ice cream, lemonade, pit beef, pit ham, pit turkey, hot dogs, hamburgers, sausage, french fries. A football air balloon the size of a motor home. A beer garden for adults. Football games for the kids: "Extra Point Kick," "Quick Release," "NFL Kids' Zone," "Long Snap," "Ravens War Paint and Super Fan Tattoos." There were booths for Bell Atlantic and the Slomin's Shield security system company.

But the highlight outside the stadium is tonight, when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra plays at 8 p.m. as part of a light show with special effects. Performer Stevie Wonder will join the orchestra and sing. (There is no formal seating. Organizers warn that people should bring lawn chairs and blankets.)

Pub Date: 9/05/98

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