Horse Racing has been very prominent in my family. We weren't owners or trainers but instead, betters. I grew up just 5 minutes away from Pimlico Race Track and some of my earliest memories were born at that track. Now I never been to Churchill downs or Belmont Park, but I know for sure they are very different from Pimlico. The location alone makes Pimlico and the Preakness the most unique jewel of the Triple Crown. Pimlico Race track is smack in the middle of poverty, drugs, violence, and lost hope. Park Heights (neighborhood where Pimlico is located) used to be filled with middle class black families, but after the crack epidemic, it basically turned the area into a warzone with abandon houses, resembling somthing out of Iraq. But every year on the 3rd Saturday in May, Park Heights and Pimlico becomes a melting pot of cultures and pride.
The Preakness is really a big party around a horse race. I was 4 years old when I went to my first Preakness Stakes and it was crazy. I will admit this was not a place for a 4 year old to be but I had the time of my life and I'm glad my cousins took me. Back then, you were allowed to bring in your own food and beverages, basically beer and liquor, and you would see thousand of people walking into the infield with coolers full of beer. And the festivities started early at the Stakes, people start filing in at 8am.
So imagine thousands of people, drinking beer from 8am-5pm in a festival like atmosphere, you are bound to see anything, and I did.
Anything goes in the infield. Its filled with people who are trying to get drunk and have a great time. I'll even say that 60% of the people that come to the Preakness are not even concerned with the horse races. When I went with my cousins in '94, people (mainly females) gravitated to me because I was one of very few kids there. Two girls who were in bathing suits let me shoot them with their water gun, which I later got to keep. I also got to take home the old nerf football that whistled when you throw it but the story behind it is why I really kept it.
The ball was getting thrown back and forth between a bunch of people. Somebody would catch and throw it back in the air. Well, one dude was not a fan of the whistling nerf ball. So when the ball landed in his vicinity, he bit off a chunk of the ball that killed the whistling sound and throw it back in the air. At 4 years old I was amazed, and to this day, that is still one of the most funniest things I ever witnessed. By the end of the day I had witnessed fights, women body parts, and angry/happy drunken fools, it was wonderful.
Still the Preakness has it's negatives, with violence and heavy drug use throughout the day, but with anything positive comes a negative. If you can get pass that then you will enjoy yourself. I love how even with the despair and struggle in the surrounding area of Pimlico Race Track, they have never moved the Preakness Stakes.
It even gives people, especially young kids, an opportunity to make some money. For as long as I can remember, you would see kids from ages 10-16, pushing around shopping carts with fans' coolers or actually people, transporting them to and from the track for $10-$20. Some kids by the end of the day go home with at least $200.
I will be attending this year's Preakness Stakes on Saturday, my first time since 1994. Things have changed since that first time I went, more rules have been added to gain more control, like coolers are not allowed anymore, but the craziness is still there. They have also added concerts to the infield and the one and only Nas will be performing this year. I'm sure it will be a fun time.