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A championship weekend to open the season, bobblehead giveaways that include the likeness of Buffalo native Tim Russert, and a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of their affiliation with the Cleveland Indians are among the highlights of the Buffalo Bisons' 2005 promotional schedule.

The Bisons begin the season Thursday against Richmond, the start of a six-game homestand that will honor the team's 2004 Governors' Cup title. The championship banner will be raised before the opener, and the first 12,000 fans will receive a magnetic schedule. The team will give out 4,000 championship pennants Saturday and honor "Local Champions" prior to Sunday's game.

The opening homestand will also mark the unveiling of two new areas in the ballpark. The Labatt Blue Zone is a party area in Section 116 behind first base featuring wider blue seats. For $20, fans get a game ticket, snacks, soda, Labatt products and can order off a limited Pettibones Grille menu with delivery to the seats. The area can accommodate groups up to 75.

Two new party suites have been created on the club level, one in a '50s diner theme and the other in a game room theme featuring a pinball machine, bubble hockey game and Xbox system.

The popular bobblehead giveaways begin June 5 when the first 4,000 fans get a doll of Russert, the South Buffalo native who is host of NBC's "Meet the Press." Russert will throw the ceremonial first pitch and sign copies of his best-selling book "Big Russ & Me." Other bobblehead giveaways are June 30 (manager Marty Brown), Aug. 1 (Ernie Young) and Aug. 29 (Jhonny Peralta).

Throughout the season, the Bisons will be celebrating a "Decade of Hits" as an Indians affiliate to commemorate their eight playoff appearances and three league titles since aligning with the Tribe in 1995.

The "Remember Whensday" promotion on Wednesday games will look back at the great moments of the teams' partnership. Fans will be provided with ballots to vote for an All-Bisons team during the affiliation, and the results will be announced Aug. 24. Each Wednesday, 2,000 baseball card strips honoring the 2004 team will be given to fans. The Herd will wear 1995-style red, white and black jerseys April 9, May 21, June 10, July 3 and Aug. 24.

Other promotions for 2005:

Fireworks -- the customary Friday night displays will be given this season by Zambelli Fireworks Internationale, the company noted for performances at the Super Bowl, presidential inaugurations and New Year's Eve in Times Square.

Concerts -- The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra will play its annual Independence Eve show July 3. Children's entertainer Glenn Colton will perform Aug. 14.

Mascots -- Blooper, a new national touring mascot, will appear June 25, while Spider-Man comes to town July 10 and the ZOOperstars return July 30. Not on the schedule is The Famous Chicken, a regular in Buffalo for more than 20 years. He has cut back his schedule and is not performing here this summer.

"Markdown Mondays" -- Each Monday game will feature discounts on tickets, food and drinks.

Ethnic Festival Nights -- Irish Night (June 21), Italian Night (July 26), Polish Night (Aug. 2) and German Night (Aug. 23) will all be followed by postgame fireworks.

Other events -- Jhonny Peralta MVP Poster Day (May 7), Family Campout Nights (June 10, July 8), Wedding Day (June 26), America's Best Frisbee Dogs (June 4) and Ballpark Brawl wrestling (Aug. 13).

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