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FIELD OF DREAMS INDEED

Viva Simmons Field! Kenosha Kingfish plan Elvis-themed weddings

The news that Las Vegas wedding chapels have been told to stop using Elvis Presley in ceremonies has some folks all shook up.

Into that void steps a hero: Our own King Elvis, mascot of the Kenosha Kingfish baseball team.

Concerned that couple’s plans for Elvis-themed wedding trips are now Heartbreak Hotel, the team is turning historic Simmons Field into a wedding venue on Aug. 6.

Before the team’s game that Saturday, King Elvis himself will officiate weddings at home plate, in front of family, friends and fans who just showed up for a baseball game and found themselves at a wedding. If that happens to you, don’t fret about not bringing a gift. The Aug. 6 game is also Nurses Appreciation Night, with a Nurse Elvis Bobblehead giveaway. And Kingfish bobbleheads make excellent wedding presents.

Here’s the scoop: A $50 fee covers a Champagne toast, a bride’s bouquet and Fish Bowl tickets to the game after the ceremony. Wedding guests are invited to purchase additional Fish Bowl tickets for $31, which includes a ticket to the wedding, the game and a reception with unlimited ballpark food and beverages during the game. The team’s Dancing Elvi will stand as witnesses for the happy couples.

After the ceremony, Elvis music will be played throughout the game, with video boards and game announcements celebrating the happy couples.

The celebration ends with — what else? — a fireworks show.

Isn’t it romantic?

The wedding promotion is the brainchild of new team co-owner Bill Fanning, who — like the rest of the world — was aghast when the company that controls the name and image of “The King” put out the “cease-and-desist” order about Elvis weddings.

Fanning has a long history of organizing quirky baseball game promotions as the longtime general manager of the St. Paul Saints.

He also has experience with ballpark nuptials.

“We’ve had people get married at home plate at other places I’ve worked but having Elvis, the Kingfish mascot, be involved was a slam dunk when I read about Vegas Elvis Chapels closing down,” said Fanning, who admits to being “a true romantic.”

His own wedding, however, was not Elvis-themed.

“My wife did most of the wedding planning and somehow missed out on the Elvis idea,” he said. “She clearly knows me too well to let me plan our wedding.”

Fanning does see the appeal of a ballpark reception, featuring “hot dogs, peanuts, Miller High Life Beer (“The Champagne of Bottled Beer”); throw in some cheese curds and you’ve got yourself the perfect wedding banquet.”

Still waiting

“We have received some serious interest but no takers yet,” said the team’s marketing manager, Justin Dade.

Dade is married, but Kingfish General Manager Ryne Goralski is the perfect candidate for a ballpark wedding. While his canine pal Bubba isn’t a hound dog, Bubba is the team’s ballpark dog and would make an adorable ring bearer.

When asked about a possible Simmons Field wedding this summer, Goralski laughed, saying, “I do not think my girlfriend would budge” on this plan. Really? Does she not want a stadium filled with fans at her wedding and unlimited access to brats and beer? Isn’t that every bride’s dream?

Viva Las Vegas!

Elvis — the singer, not the fish mascot — had a long association with Las Vegas.

He became indelibly linked to Sin City in the ’60s and ’70s, and his 1964 movie “Viva Las Vegas” had a title track that became the city’s unofficial theme.

Most importantly, Elvis himself got married in Las Vegas in 1967 to wife Priscilla, cementing his association with Vegas weddings.

‘I do,’ on the field

Simmons Field, too, has a history with wedding bliss.

In May of 1988, 13 couples were married at home plate before a minor league baseball game between the Kenosha Twins and the Rockford Expos. (In a happy coincidence, the Rockford Rivets Northwoods League team will play our Kingfish at the Aug. 6 game.)

The 1988 couples all came from Illinois, as a way to avoid the expense (or bother) of an AIDS test, which had been mandatory in their home state since Jan. 1.

The team used the slogan, “We’ll provide the diamond if you provide the bride,” and Kenosha County Court Commissioner Jon Mason encouraged the couples to enter marriage “with good sportsmanship.”

Bob Lee, the general manager of the Kenosha Twins, said he thought of the mass wedding after seeing County Clerk Nancy Principe discuss on a news show the sudden rush of Illinois couples applying for Wisconsin marriage licenses.

“If you look at baseball, it’s a tradition,” Lee said at the time. “And marriage, well it’s a tradition also, so it makes sense to have it here.”

No fooling

For those wondering at home: Yes, this will be “a legit wedding,” Dade said. King Elvis will dress up for the ceremony but not speak (he really can’t break the mascots’ sacred code of silence).

“We will accept as many wedding couples who care to participate,” Fanning said. “We are also accepting those romantics, like me, who want to renew their vows.”

For registration forms and guest tickets, contact the Kingfish ticket office at 262-653-0900 or email info@kingfishbaseball.com. The deadline to register for an Elvis wedding ceremony is Aug. 1.

And, really, what’s more romantic than saying your vows in front of a fuzzy yellow fish and feasting on hot dogs and peanuts afterward? Here’s a bonus: If the Kingfish win that night, it’s a good omen for a long and happy marriage.

Have a comment? Email Liz at esnyder@kenoshanews.com, or call her at 262-656-6271.

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