Baltimore turns 200 next year, and it's inviting the world to celebrate.
Built around the theme "Baltimore 200 -- America's City of Firsts," which was spelled out in blue and gold on a logo unveiled yesterday, the yearlong celebration will feature a series of bashes, concerts and exhibits playing up the city's history.
"It's going to be an international event," said an ebullient Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who danced to the Dunbar High jazz band at the newly christened Bicentennial Plaza at the Inner Harbor yesterday. "Baltimore's going to be the place to be in 1997."
The celebration will focus on what is uniquely Baltimore.
A new Homecoming Center at Baltimore City Life Museums will chronicle the city's role as the second-biggest immigration port of entry during the great wave of immigration of the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Organizers, whose announcement yesterday came 200 days from 1997, hope to computerize records so that families can trace their roots to Baltimore. And the city plans to invite families, businesses and other organizations to have reunions in Baltimore during the bicentennial.
Locals who miss the long-gone City Fair and tourists who never )) savored its delights will get a taste of a modern alternative when the expanded Convention Center will forgo conventions in April. The space will be devoted to a celebration of city neighborhoods, replete with home-grown talent, food and exhibits.
A bicentennial concert in June will feature national music acts with ties to Baltimore. Tall ships and Navy ships will visit the harbor to pay tribute to the city's maritime heritage.
"Pastports" will enable visitors to see more than 20 historically significant attractions for one price. Bicentennial maps, mugs, T-shirts, billboards and self-guided tours will be everywhere.
"This is an opportunity to share Baltimore with the whole world," said Joshua Waldorf, executive director of Baltimore Bicentennial Inc., the nonprofit organization that Schmoke created last year to oversee the events.
"Our first goal is really to try to create some long-term economic impact for the city and for the state. By bringing people together, with the international and national attention, it's a chance to really put Baltimore on the map."
Larry Gibson, co-chairman of the nonprofit corporation and longtime Schmoke strategist, said: "Two hundred days from today, we begin the biggest, baddest, most bodacious birthday bash that any city has ever had."
Waldorf stressed that the celebration will extend well beyond the downtown tourist center. "We look at this as an excellent opportunity to get people to reflect on Baltimore, the past and the future," Waldorf said.
Local trivia contests will test historical knowledge of the city that gave the world passenger trains, gas lights, the telegraph, Linotype machines and the Star-Spangled Banner.
Centenarians will be honored and bicentennial babies will be bestowed with certificates. Actors will bring history to life at schools, where children will create artworks depicting their vision of Baltimore in 2097. A time capsule, to be opened in 100 years, will be buried at Bicentennial Plaza -- where you'll be able to buy a brick with your name inlaid on it for $50.
Daily broadcasts on radio and TV -- written and delivered by locals -- will highlight slices of Baltimore history.
The official Baltimore Song will play on the radio -- just as soon as somebody writes and records it.
Family recipes will be judged by chefs at municipal markets, and the best of them will go into a Bicentennial Baltimore Cookbook.
For the city's $1 billion-a-year tourism industry, the bicentennial could hardly have come at a better time. The bicentennial will coincide with a host of projects, almost all of them tourism-related. This "second renaissance" will expand the city's menu of attractions at a pace and on a scale unprecedented since the Inner Harbor redevelopment became a model emulated across America.
The Baltimore Ravens will debut. Metropolis at the Power Plant, a major entertainment and retail attraction, will be open, along with a new visitors' center at Bicentennial Plaza, a Civil War and transportation museum, a Disney-designed Hall of Exploration at the Columbus Center and Canton and Locust Point waterfront promenades.
So far, the nonprofit bicentennial organization has raised about $100,000, along with free services from many corporations. Its leaders say they're confident that much more money will flow into its coffers for events and marketing in the coming months.
One major source will be the gala celebrating the opening of the expanded Convention Center in September. All proceeds from the event will go to the bicentennial celebration.
Pub Date: 6/15/96