- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TOWSON, Md. (AP) | The homecoming celebrations for Olympian Michael Phelps will be Oct. 4, and tens of thousands are expected, officials said Tuesday.

The “Parade of Gold” will be in Towson, north of Baltimore and in Phelps’ hometown, and will be followed by a “Star-Spangled Salute” with music and fireworks at Fort McHenry later that evening.

Mr. Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last month. The events next month also will honor fellow swimmer and Olympic silver-medalist Katie Hoff, of Towson, and Paralympic gold-medalist Jessica Long, of Middle River.

County, city and state officials are asking businesses to contribute $300,000 for the events.

Katie Hoff’s mother, Jeanne, said her daughter was touched by people embracing her as their own.

“A big part of it has been that support,” she said.

Mr. Phelps’ mother, Debbie, said athletes are models for the next generation and she is proud of her son sending out a message of believing in one’s self.

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., said jokingly that Towson is now the center of the swimming universe and that he watched the Olympics while he recovered from heart-bypass surgery.

“I couldn’t have asked for better therapy,” he said.

Mr. Smith was joined for the announcement in the library of Mr. Phelps’ alma mater, Towson High School, by Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, the school’s marching band and cheerleaders.

As a student at the school, Mr. Phelps was low-key and down to earth, said Principal Jane N. Barranger. Their nickname for him is the “Golden General” after the school’s mascot.

“We all knew he was going to go to the Olympics,” Mrs. Barranger said.

Some of the students who attended the announcement said the fact that Mr. Phelps’ hometown-hero status makes his achievements especially inspiring.

“He walked the same halls I walk, ” said Janae Johnson, a 17-year-old senior at Towson High. “It makes it more real.”

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