Nickelodean star attracts multitude to shopping mall
BY CHARLES SCHILLINGER
A crowd of tweens and teens gathered around the center stage at the Mall at Steamtown Saturday afternoon, welcoming singer and Nickelodeon television star Jared Drake Bell with deafening screams and chants. But there were far fewer people and much less commotion made for the 21-year-old “Drake & Josh” actor than when the downtown Scranton mall hosted Emily Osment, the 15-year-old actress from the “Hannah Montana” program, in August.
The result this time around was an orderly event — if, that is, 3,500 children yelling “We want Drake” can be called orderly.
Jill Kelly, of Scranton — who brought her 5-year-old smiling “Drake” fan, Marisa, to get an autograph — said things went much more smoothly than August’s fan event.
“That was a disaster,” Mrs. Kelly said. “But this, this was great. It went much better.”
It also helped that Mr. Bell arrived on time. Miss Osment, stuck in traffic, was a half hour late for the event in August. The same amount of security, including Scranton city firefighters and police officers, turned out for both events, said Jim Walsh, general manager and vice president of the mall. He said it was the “sheer number” of people who came out for the “Hannah” event that made the difference.
About 3,500 people came out to see the “Drake” star, Mr. Walsh estimated, down from the 7,500 children and parents who thronged the shopping center when Miss Osment came to Scranton.
The mall also limited the number of fans who could personally meet Mr. Bell, giving out free “Golden Tickets” prior to the event, Mr. Walsh said.
“We caught fire with the free-for-all last time, so this time we used tickets,” Mr. Walsh. “I think it was a phenomenal success, though I wish more people could have turned out.”
Despite the fewer numbers, there were die-hard fans in the crowd. A group of children, all of Scranton, wearing “Drake & Josh” T-shirts arrived at the mall around 7:30 a.m. to be the first in line to meet Mr. Bell.
Two of them, Maritza Cherry, 10, and Sarah Williams, 10, hoped to get the star to sing happy birthday for them. Their birthdays are this month. Another girl, Brooke Rowlands, 10, hoped she would have the chance to give Mr. Bell a kiss.
Sarah said she woke up around 3 a.m. she was so excited.
“It’s Drake Bell!” the girls screamed when asked why they woke up so early on a Saturday.
Ralphie Aversa, a night show radio host for BHT 97 FM who emceed the event, said it was fun to be on stage, getting the fans ready for when the pop star showed up.
“This is a demographic that is passionate about who they like, and they like Drake,” he said.
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