Alonso's Restaurant gets its purple on for the Ravens

Kevin Rasmussen came from Essex to north Baltimore in the predawn hours of Purple Friday to root on the Ravens.

The 30-year-old BGE lead relay technician stood with his father, Walt, in a crowd of 200 diehard Ravens fans at Alonso's restaurant, drinking a beer before 7 a.m., and waiting for a bevy of Ravens cheerleaders to arrive on a bus.

There was plenty to keep them occupied while they waited, from a condensed Ravens marching band playing The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" outside the restaurant on West Cold Spring Lane to radio station 98 Rock broadcasting in the front room and free bacon and eggs in the back.

It was a long way to drive for Kevin Rasmussen, but knowing that 98 Rock would be there sealed the deal.

"They host the best Ravens parties," he said.

The occasion for this party was Purple Friday, a prelude to the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Ravens and the Houston Texans. A "caravan" of cheerleaders and marching band members spends Fridays before "exceptional games" traveling to bars and restaurants around the region to pump up football fans, said Heather Harness, the Ravens marketing and advertising manager, who helped organize the caravan event.

Alonso's, locally famed for it's big burgers, was the first stop on a day that would take the caravan to Carroll, Howard, Harford and Baltimore counties from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

"We try to travel to as many counties as possible," Harness said. "The main purpose is just to get people excited for the game."

It didn't take much to get the Alonso's crowd excited. Many there were season ticket holders.

"I'll be sitting in section 541 this Sunday, watching us kick the Texans," said Gary McCammon, 43, of Carney, who came to Alonso's with his wife Sherry, and their children, Sammy, 8, and Megan, 5.

"We need to get the kids here before school at 8:55," Gary McCammon said. "This was the closest stop before school."

"We're just out to have a few beers and a good time," said trucking company dispatcher Kevin Mitchell, 35, of Owings Mills.

Alonso's bartender Lindsay Sarnoff came to work at 5:30 a.m., compared to 11 a.m on a typical Friday. Luckily for her, she's a Ravens fan.

"Hectic," she said, describing the morning as she handed out $2 bottle of beer.

Finally came the moment everyone was waiting for, the arrival of the cheerleaders, who strolled around the restaurant handing out freebies and autographing small posters of themselves.

"It's such an exciting thing. It doesn't matter that I'm up so early," said one cheerleader, who identified herself only as Courtney, as she autographed a poster for 50-year-old Kevin Richmond, of Laurel.

Then, the cheerleaders gathered in their outfits and pompoms as the crowd stepped back to make room for them.

"Go Ravens," they chanted.

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