The hot-air balloon events are only the beginning of what Preakness Celebration organizers have in store this year. There are many familiar events and a couple of new ones too. Here is a sampling.
Preakness Crab Derby, 12:30 p.m.: Sports and media celebrities select a crab to race in the seventh annual Preakness Week tradition at Lexington Market. Root for your favorite crustacean at this crowd-pleasing event. Free. Call 410-685-6169.
Baltimore Magazine Pasta Dinner, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.: The Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel sets the table for this carbo-loading buffet whether you are running in the Fila 5-K Preakness Run Saturday morning or not. All-you-can-eat spaghetti, salad fixings, dessert, cold beer and cola are on the menu. Dinner tickets are $5 in advance or $10 at the door. Call 410-837-3030 for reservations.
Media Balloon Launch, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.: Preakness Celebration officially kicks off its 1997 season as more than 20 hot-air balloons lift up and away over Baltimore. Stop by Rash Field after work and catch a glimpse as they launch over the Inner Harbor. Free.
Bud Light Nights "The 10th Annual Infield Party on Water Street!" Hours vary: Two blocks north of the Inner Harbor on Water Street, this weeklong outdoor block party ushers in the Preakness. Local radio stations bring live musical entertainment. You must be 21 years old to enter. $3 on Friday nights, $1 all others. The entertainment schedule is:
May 9: (5:30 p.m.-midnight) 98 Rock presents Those Who Dare and Love Riot.
May 10: (7:30 p.m.-midnight) Entertainment to be announced.
May 11-13: Bud Light Nights is closed.
May 14: (5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.) Froggy 100.7 presents Branded.
May 15: (5:30 p.m.-10: 30 p.m.) 98 Rock presents Never Green and Honor Among Thieves.
May 16: (5:30 p.m.-midnight) 104.3 The Colt presents CYBER HIPPIE with Kathy Zebron.
Hot-Air Balloon Competition, 6:30 a.m.-8 a.m.: Rise and shine to catch a second glimpse of hot-air balloons as they fill the hills of Druid Hill Park (Exit 7 off I-83 near the Baltimore Zoo). This liftoff takes place after balloonists from around the country compete in tests of skill and accuracy. Tune to V103-FM and the Radio Zone for more details. Free.
FILA 5-K Preakness Run, post time: 8 a.m. The 4th annual Fila 5-K Preakness Run is fast-paced action for experienced racers and weekend joggers. The flat course starts at Rash Field in the Inner Harbor, wraps south of the Harbor and back to the Rash Field finish line. Call 410-377-8882 for a race application. Sam's Bagels and the Outback Steak House provide the post-race buffet. Entry fees are $15 in advance and $20 on race day.
The Baltimore Sun Preakness Parade, 10 a.m.-noon: The Baltimore Sun sponsors the 24th annual Preakness Parade. This year's lineup includes two U.S. Olympic gold medalists (gymnast Dominique Dawes and swimmer Beth Botsford), colorful floats, gigantic helium balloon characters, antique trucks and equestrian units. The parade gathers at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Eutaw Street and marches east on Chase Street, south on Charles Street and east on Pratt Street along Harborplace and the Gallery. WMAR NewsChannel 2 will broadcast the parade live. V103-FM hosts will emcee the parade from the reviewing stand at Light and Pratt streets. Free.
The Pimlico Special, post time: 12:30 p.m.: This stakes race boasts a purse of $600,000 as the nation's top older thoroughbreds compete at Pimlico Race Course (Exit 10-B off I-83). The racing continues at Pimlico from May 15 through Preakness Day. Ticket prices vary, call 410-542-9400.
The 7th Annual Crown Central Petroleum BalloonGlow and Country Concert, gates open at 1 p.m., concert begins at 4 p.m., BalloonGlow begins at 8 p.m.: Oregon Ridge Park (Exit 20-B off I-83) sets the scene for an afternoon of country music entertainment. WPOC radio will provide the host announcers for performances by Mark Wills, Ricochet and David Lee Murphy. Throughout the day, children can visit the McDonald's Playground, a "pee wee stakes" race on hobby horses, puppet shows and arts and crafts. After the concert, there will be a "glowing" finale as hot-air balloons light up the night sky. Tickets are $10 in advance at Metro Food Markets or through TicketMaster at 410-481-SEAT. Kids under 12 are free. Day-of-show tickets and shuttle buses are available at the Hunt Valley Mall (Exit 20-A off I-83). Call the WPOC Listener Line at 410-889-9393, Ext. 18, or tune into WJZ-TV, Channel 13. Concert will be held rain or shine.
Phillips Preakness Trayfecta, noon: Phillips Harborplace challenges downtown restaurant servers to an obstacle course that rivals a busy Saturday night in this 2nd annual favorite. An outdoor cafe setting, complete with umbrella tables, potted plants, swinging kitchen door and demanding customers sets the stage at the Harborplace Amphitheatre for a friendly battle of Baltimore's best restaurant servers. Call 800-HARBOR-1 for details. Free.