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Clowning Around Before the U. S. Open

August 28, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day USTA National Tennis Center Saturday, 08.25.01, 9 AM to 5 PM
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It was a match-up that 17,000 fans loved: a day of tennis and teeny-bop pop at the sixth annual Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, the event that kicked off the 2001 U. S. Open tennis tournament two days before the matches began.

Balloon makers, unicyclists, stilt-walking tennis players, face painters, and jugglers (from Always Entertaining), all wearing custom-designed tennis-inspired costumes, roamed the grounds of the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, with Pied Piper-like trails of eager kids following behind.

On the hard courts, kids who weren't interested in watching press-worthy pros like Justine Henin practice for upcoming matches had the opportunity to hit forehands with Michael Chang and Todd Martin; try out racquets used by the Williams sisters, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras; and participate in Nike-sponsored tennis clinics with rising stars Alexandra Stevenson, Mardy Fish and Lleyton Hewitt.

Of course, tennis wasn't the only order of the day. On the outer stage, the Swedish pop quartet Play performed, along with Myra and Off the Curb. Overland Entertainment booked the acts, and Eminent Productions provided sound and lighting.

But what made made kids swoon wasn't the heat, but the main attraction: musical headliners Lil' Bow Wow and O-Town. The two acts performed in front of a crowd of 15,000 inside Arthur Ashe Stadium (the stadium show required a ticket, whereas the rest of the event was free to the public).

The event, co-hosted by CBS' Mark McEwen and Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders, also featured a game of so-called “Survivor Tennis” with guest chair umpire John McEnroe, who generated considerably fewer cheers from young fans than Survivor tennis players Taylor Dent and Ashley Harkleroad. Overland booked and coordinated all talent, and Avellin Productions produced the show and provided the sound and lighting for the inside portion.

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day was a USTA produced event, and raised $400,000 for USA Tennis National Junior Tennis League, which was founded by Arthur Ashe in 1969 to bring the sport of tennis to kids. Edelman Public Relations' Edelman Sports division handled PR.
--Erika Rasmusson

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