Two of four co-captains on the Atlanta Falcons Cheerleaders will help celebrate the boys of summer – and the boys of fall – on Saturday with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at TicketReturn.com Field.
They will meet and greet, sign autographs, and take photos with fans during the baseball team’s “Coaches vs. Cancer Night.” The game includes, for the first 1,000 fans through the gates, a miniature football giveaway featuring Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney, the respective coaches of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson University Tigers, along with appearances by both teams’ mascots, and a silent auction to benefit Fierce Fallon, a foundation ( www.fiercefallon.com) to help Fallon Emery, a 10-year-old from Carolina Forest who was diagnosed in December with brain cancer.
Also, for this game by the Pelicans, the Advanced-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, against the Salem (Va.) Red Sox (Boston Red Sox), fans are encouraged to wear jerseys of their favorite NFL or college football team to the ballpark. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.
Both Falcons cheerleaders joining the festivities are eager to feed the football fever on this night. Denita Clara Clark, an executive assistant by day who has begun her sixth season on the Falcons cheer team, said she will retire from the sidelines after this season, capping off a “fun run” with the franchise. Alice Fair, a barre fitness studio director and a native of Eden, N.C., north of Greensboro, marks her fourth year cheering for the Falcons.
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Question | With so many fans of Atlanta pro teams – especially the Braves – and Georgia college teams across the Grand Strand, how fun is bringing some Falcons cheer presence to a baseball game of the Carolina League playoff-bound Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a month before another NFL season kicks off?
Clark | We all love competition. Around this time of year, everybody gets hungry for football. We’re excited to visit Myrtle Beach. Anytime we can visit and share our team spirit, and our girls and what we’re all about with fans, it’s fun. All of these experiences are unique to me.
Fair | We love to share our passion for the Atlanta Falcons football organization, and we can’t wait to share our excitement with everyone in Myrtle Beach. It is amazing that you will find Falcons fans all over the country and world.
Q. | In the offseason, how extensive is the process for designing and choreographing routines each year to dazzle fans for at least 10 home games every year, and how early in the year does football fever begin in earnest?
Clark | This year, we’ll have nine “home” games, because we’re going to England [Oct. 26] to play Detroit. A lot of people don’t realize how much time it takes; we have tryouts anywhere from March to April, and this year, it was late April and early May. We start practicing in May unofficially, when we start learning the routines. We just go all year. ... It’s a yearlong commitment, not just what you do during the football season. ... Also, we have our “promos” we do year round, where we make appearances and do different things in the community. It’s definitely worth every minute.
Fair | After our team is selected at our spring auditions, we start training camp the first of June and continue practicing twice a week throughout the season. We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing choreographer ... who puts together most of our routines for the season. We also attend a pro cheerleading convention every summer in Atlanta, where hundreds of pro cheerleaders from all over the country come to learn and share routines from their own teams. We strive to put on an even better performance with each game, and last year, we really pushed ourselves to add in more stunting and tumbling for the crowd.
Q. | With both of you being among the four Falcons cheer captains this year and part of a 36-member squad, how many different backgrounds and occupations do the women represent?
Clark | It’s very diverse. Chato Hendrix, the coordinator, has instilled values in us from the beginning. She wants well-rounded women who are doing more than just cheering. This business seems like a whirlwind. ... I started here when I was 23; this business is just a small part of my life. When I retire, my coach wants to make sure I have been developing a career destination. ... I work for a district attorney’s office. ...
We have a cheerleader from Japan. ... She came here not knowing anyone; she has had our team support. It’s not just about the cute uniforms and the great routines. We really are developing women; that’s the ... thing that gives me goosebumps thinking about it. We have a special opportunity to pull from each other and be inspired by each other. ... This is a special opportunity we’re so blessed to have; it goes way further than looking at the glitz and glamour.
Fair | We are surrounded by 35 “wow” women, who all have different careers and aspirations. From chemists, yoga and fitness instructors, to small-business owners, I am inspired every day by each of my teammates and their passion towards their career and future. Unlike some other teams, all of our squad members have a full-time job or are a current student. Our coach really supports us in finding a career and helps in any way possible. Being a cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons is just the icing on the cake for us.
Q. | Cheering at home games, against what rival, amid the competitive NFC South Division – also with the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – does fan spirit in the Georgia Dome run highest so naturally and powerfully for victory?
Clark | Playing the Saints is an intense game; it has been every single year we’ve played them. ... Our fans really look forward to it. Saints. And the traveling teams ... there are some surprising teams. For the Saints game, and when the Green Bay Packers come, their fans travel. ... It’s interesting to see what fans show up. The Pittsburgh Steelers [Dec. 14] will be a huge game. Anytime fans travel to our dome, it just makes our games and fans more intense.
Fair | The Saints, as always. This rivalry will never die down. I get chills every time we play the Saints because the crowd is so loud and our fans are so supportive up to the last second of the game.
Q. | How excited is everyone in the Falcons organization with the upcoming move, a new era, to play in New Atlanta Stadium under its “Oculus” retractable roof, starting in 2017?
Clark | As it gets closer, it gets more exciting. We’re a team of change, and we like those little changes that will bring us a new age. We change up something every year in our cheer routines. ... It’ll be another time to kind of renew. ... It’ll be a special dome for our team, right down to the cheerleaders.
Fair | Everyone is very excited to have a new home for the Falcons, but luckily for us, it is just across the street from our current stadium, so it will not affect our fan base. I will probably be retired from cheerleading by the time the new stadium is open, but I am hoping the cheerleaders will have a great new space as well.
Q. | With Metro Atlanta only a six-hour drive from Myrtle Beach, what attractions there are some tried-and-true favorites we travelers should visit? Seeing the whale sharks in the Georgia Aquarium? Touring the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the World of Cola-Cola Atlanta, and nearby, Stone Mountain?
Clark | That’s one of the things that attracted me to Atlanta. ... It’s like the hallmark of history, with the museums and even Stone Mountain. ... There’s always something to do. There’s never a dull minute. ... We’re constantly building. ... And we’re opening the College Football Hall of Fame. ... Our city loves sports. We show up for baseball, basketball and football ... and it’s a team environment. Competition is a part of this city, and we have a great support system in our fans.
Fair | We have some amazing sites in the Atlanta area. Stone Mountain is a great place to visit and even get a workout in if you are into hiking. My favorite places to go are our many parks that offer an escape from city life and give you a chance to interact with your neighbors. There is always a festival going on somewhere in Atlanta, which encourages all Atlantans to get to know their city and support the local community.