Phelps, friends to tour country

Disney production starts in Fla.

Baltimore County sets day to honor its star


August 31, 2004|By Ed Waldman and Jennifer McMenamin | Ed Waldman and Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

The Michael Phelps Across America Tour begins today at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

And when it arrives here in nearly two weeks, Baltimore County intends to honor its newest favorite son with a parade and other festivities.

Phelps and two of his gold medal-winning Olympic teammates will make their first public appearance in the United States today in what is officially being called "Disney's Swim With the Stars" tour.

Phelps, Ian Crocker and Lenny Krayzelburg get the full Disney treatment (including a parade in their honor) today. They will then hit the road to 11 more cities - starting in Atlanta on Friday and ending in Anaheim, Calif., on Oct. 5 - for what a press release called "a first-of-its-kind, two-hour swimming celebration show" presented by Disney.

The tour will be in Baltimore on Sept. 10-12, but Walt Disney Co. spokesman Duncan Wardle said yesterday that a venue here had not yet been "nailed down."

"This all came together very quickly," said Wardle.

In addition to the shows, which are planned for the afternoon, the swimmers will visit a school in the morning where "local deserving schoolchildren will have the rare opportunity to meet Phelps, Crocker and Krayzelburg in a motivational 30-minute, morning, personal appearance filled with expert tips [and] encouragement," according to the release.

Baltimore County officials are planning a day of festivities to celebrate Phelps, who lives - at least for a little while longer - in Rodgers Forge, just down the street from the county seat of Towson.

Phelps intends to follow his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, to the University of Michigan, where he will work as an assistant coach in late October, compete for Club Wolverine, and begin taking classes in January.

Baltimore County officials have tentatively planned three "mini-events," as Renee Samuels, a spokeswoman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr., put it, during Phelps' return home. An exact date and time had not been set as of yesterday.

There will be a ceremony to rename a street in the swimmer's honor. That will be followed by a parade down York Road from Phelps' alma mater, Towson High School, to the plaza between the Circuit Courthouse and the old courthouse, where Phelps is expected to receive a ceremonial key to the county.

"A lot of people feel like he's their Michael Phelps," Samuels said. "He's from this area, and they want to celebrate the attention he's brought to the area."

Indeed, by yesterday afternoon, the county had received 339 entries in its competition to come up with a nickname for Phelps that would level the moniker playing field with Ian "The Thorpedo" Thorpe of Australia. Voting on the top entries is scheduled to begin Monday at on the county government's Web site.

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