'93 had no Preakness Parade will '94 have 2?

January 27, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Eric Siegel contributed to this article.

The Preakness Parade, canceled last year in Baltimore for lack of sponsors, may march this spring to two different drummers.

While officials in Baltimore try to revive their parade, Anne Arundel County civic leaders have visions of a Macy's-style parade up Ritchie Highway.

Parade hopefuls in both communities, along with Preakness officials, say that a Preakness Parade in Glen Burnie would be a Preakness parade, not the Preakness Parade, because the Preakness Parade has to be in Baltimore.

However, the volume of Anne Arundel's proposal could drown out Baltimore's more modest attempts to stage a community parade.

Dan Boyd, president of the Northern Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, said that organizers have approached several major corporations with operations along Ritchie Highway in an effort to secure sponsorship for a May 15 extravaganza with floats, helium balloons and marching bands from across the region. If it clears organization hurdles, the business group plans to try to persuade Baltimore television stations to show the parade live.

NationsBank, based in Charlotte, N.C., is reviewing the tentative parade plans and is expected to respond within a few weeks about sponsoring the Glen Burnie event, a source involved with that parade said. Officials of NationsBank, which merged with Maryland National Bank in 1993, could not be reached for comment.

A lack of sponsorship killed the city's Preakness Parade last year. It had been held every year since 1973.

"My understanding is the Preakness Parade is prepared to come back this year [to Baltimore] after a one-year hiatus. The caveat is it doesn't happen unless there's a sponsor," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion.

Donna Leonard, executive director of the Maryland Preakness Committee Inc., said that a Glen Burnie parade "would not take the place of" Baltimore's parade but would be a welcome addition to Preakness Week festivities.

"Any parade they do in Glen Burnie would be a second or third parade," she said.

The Anne Arundel group is the only other group seeking the approval of the Preakness Committee.

Ms. Leonard is working with city officials in an effort to secure a $75,000 sponsor for an event that would feature local marching bands and drill teams, along with performers from other states. She said she has no plans to seek live television coverage.

In contrast, Mr. Boyd said his organization has drawn up a parade budget of $250,000 and has been working with Baltimore-Washington International Airport officials on plans for a kilometer race the morning of the parade.

Mr. Boyd and Ms. Leonard said the parades would not be competing for the public's eye.

"They don't have to be the same kind of parade. They shouldn't be the same. It's not a matter of one being glitzy and one not. It's a matter of different styles," Ms. Leonard said.

The tentative parade route in Glen Burnie -- from Marley Station mall north to Route 270 -- is lined with potential sponsors; fast-food franchises, supermarkets and other stores fill its shopping districts.

The Anne Arundel group has been meeting with State Highway Administration officials to determine the parade route. There are other wide roads nearby that could serve as detours for traffic on Ritchie Highway, a major north-south artery, said Edward Meehan, SHA district engineer for the region that includes Anne Arundel County.

"The major concern is for emergency vehicles," Mr. Meehan said.

Some hurdles, such as those involving utility companies, have been cleared, Mr. Boyd said.

Because orchestrating a 1 1/2 -hour parade is so involved, the Glen Burnie group needs a commitment from a sponsor and the blessing of SHA officials by the end of February. Similarly, Ms. Leonard and Mr. Gilmore need to have a sponsor lined up within a month to stage a parade in Baltimore.

The proposal for a Preakness parade in Glen Burnie originated with Bob Kemp, the owner of a parade balloon company in Glen Burnie whose helium-filled characters dot the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

As the city's director of tourism in the early 1970s, he started Baltimore's Preakness Parade. Disappointed when the event was canceled last year, he hatched his Glen Burnie idea while driving to work on Ritchie Highway.

"We've got every place. We've got a market dying to be tapped. We've got money rolling upon money," he said.

Nevertheless, he said, he does not want anyone to think the suburbs are trying to march off with Baltimore's parade.

"We do not want to be Indianapolis taking away the Colts," he said.

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