Kathy Murray has been going to the annual Maryland Hunt Cup for longer than she wants to admit, and she'll be there today for what she calls "the picnic day of the year."
Organizers of the prestigious horse race expect at least 4,000 spectators to crowd to Worthington Farms, off Tufton Avenue, to watch the running of the 96th annual Hunt Cup race, which begins at 4 p.m.
Just a few years ago, before organizers began requiring parking passes to be purchased before race day, the Hunt Cup drew more fans. It also had more problems with drunken teen-agers, loud rock music and trash.
Now, a parking pass is required for each car that comes to the Hunt Cup, but there's no limit on how many people can come in each car. The average is four, according to race organizers.
"It was not someplace to take the family," said Ms. Murray, a member of the Valley's Planning Council. "When they started the parking [system], all the problems -- drunk teen-agers was what it was -- subsided."
More than 50 county police officers will begin blocking off the six main intersections surrounding the race area at 1 p.m. Only those who live within the race area, have the required parking BTC passes or are guests of those in the race area will be allowed through, said Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a county police spokesman.
The new parking rules were instituted in 1990 and the effect was noticeable. There were no arrests at last year's Hunt Cup, said Sergeant Doarnberger.
Unfortunately, the new rules have made it more difficult for people to go to the race, said Charles C. Fenwick Sr., secretary for the Maryland Hunt Cup Committee. The $30 general parking passes, which used to be sold to anyone who showed up on race day, now can be obtained only before race day and after listing name, address and license tag number on an application form. That, said Mr. Fenwick, has discouraged carloads of young people from just showing up the day of the race.
James C. Hunt, 29, was a college student in the early 1980s, when rowdiness at the Hunt Cup was at its peak. He and his friends were part of the problem, he admits now.
"Now that I'm old and can't drink anymore," said Mr. Hunt, half-jokingly, "I think it's great [that they've reduced the rowdiness], because it's a beautiful tradition. And we trashed it, people of my ilk."
The event still draws large numbers of steeplechase fans from southern Pennsylvania and northern Virginia, Mr. Fenwick added, and some fans from as far away as Toronto.