Olympic-size homecoming in Towson for Phelps?
Wheels already in motion for celebration
Michael Phelps waves a U.S. flag in view of his mother Debbie (top center) and sister Whitney (right) after he won gold in the men's 4x100 medley relay on Aug. 4. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images / August 4, 2012)
"We're definitely having something — but what, when, where, I can't tell you," said Marjorie Hampson, director of the Baltimore County Office of Tourism and Promotion.
"We're in the planning stage, but the very, very beginnings of a planning stage," she said.
Last week, the county announced it had formed a committee to organize a celebration and ceremony for Phelps, and would work with the Towson Chamber of Commerce to plan the event.
Phelps, on Saturday, concluded his career with 22 Olympic medals — 18 gold, two silver and two bronze — the most ever won by any person in the Olympics.
And while the longtime Rodgers Forge resident and his family were finally able to begin enjoying the sights of London, Hampson said she was in contact Phelps' public relations firm to begin the process of staging a hero's welcome.
But she said it could be a while before Phelps' nationwide celebration brings him home. After the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a parade was held for Phelps and Baltimore County's other Olympians — but it didn't happen until Oct. 4.
A similar wait could be in line this year, Hampson said. She said the county would likely collaborate with Baltimore City on the event, but until a date is worked out with Phelps' representatives, "we're just going to get things going in our heads."
Phelps has already been feted in a Towson parade; he's a founding inductee in Olympian Park at the Towson roundabout; and there's already a street, "Michael Phelps Way," near his alma mater, Towson High School.
So what honors befit a man considered by many to be the greatest Olympic athlete of all time?
Jerry Sullivan, a 62-year-old Towson resident, said Monday outside the Towson Library that the county should find an appropriate way to honor Phelps' "tremendous" achievements.
"I think what he's done is never going to be surpassed, not in my lifetime," Sullivan said.
"Towson has more gold medals than India, so why not honor him?" asked David Doherty, of West Towson, as he stood outside of Ayd Hardware on Monday. "Something like a parade on York Road would be fitting."
Doherty, who hails from England, called Phelps' display "mind boggling."
On Monday, the community website, The Forge Flyer, posted the question: "Do you have Phelps Phever?" And editor Kris Henry noted, "My kids are already psyched for whatever kind of parade/celebration local officials have planned for him."
"Michael Phelps is an exceptional native son of Towson, and Towson is an exceptional community," said Fifth District County Councilman David Marks. "I think there should be some sort of public tribute to this man and all those who have supported him."
Twenty-two medals was Phelps' final tally in a career that spanned the globe and three Olympics — Athens, Beijing and London.
Even though Phelps' accomplishments have become almost routine, last week the momentum for celebration was sweeping through Towson.
On York Road at the Ayd Hardware, a chalkboard sign in front of the store declared, "Congrats, Phelps!" and Phelps chatter was a common item on the lunchtime menu.
"I was really proud of him and very excited," said Kitty Dunseath, who lives in the Thornleigh neighborhood, during a lunch at the Charles Village Pub.
Across the table, Jenny O'Flaherty of Lutherville chimed in, "I'm very proud that he went to school with my kids at Towson. He's a great famous son."
Jane Barranger, principal of Towson High, said the school is indeed, "so very proud of our 'Golden General.'
"He has worked very hard for many years, and he has attained what he set out to accomplish," Barranger said.
"We're just in our office talking about it, and how the young man and his family have worked so hard," said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce.
"He has done a phenomenal job, and definitely made Baltimore County, Maryland, and the United States very proud."
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz issued a statement about Phelps' achievement, "While the entire world was cheering on Michael Phelps ... all of us in Baltimore County take very special pride in all that Michael has accomplished.
"Congratulations Michael," Kamenetz said. "We can't wait to honor you when you return."