The Preakness is not only about the beautiful thoroughbreds that run at Pimlico Race Course, it's also about the movers and shakers in the racing world, the folks who accompany the horses to our fair city. The horses are well cared for during their stay here, and so are their owners, trainers, breeders and jockeys.
All are invited to the most important social event of Preakness Week -- the Triple Crown Ball, held the Thursday evening before the race.
This year, nearly 850 people donned black-tie garb and headed for the Hyatt Regency for cocktails and dinner, auctions and a performance by the Spinners.
This year's ball was chaired by Karin DeFrancis, senior vice president of PR and marketing for Laurel and Pimlico race courses; auctioneer Jon Levinson; and longtime ball volunteer Harriet Finkelstein. They expect to raise between $125,000 to $140,000, which will be donated to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the Maryland Jockey Club Horseman's Fund and the Peanut Allergy Research organization headed by Dr. Hugh Sampson of Johns Hopkins, who was at the party.
Channel 2's Scott Garceau emceed the ceremony, which included a moving tribute to the Children's Center, and a children's chorus singing "One by One."
Levinson presented the Preakness Stakes Humanitarian Award to Barbara Oski, in memory of her husband, Dr. Frank Oski, a former director of the Children's Center. Then it was Jim McKay who presented the Preakness Stakes Sportsman of the Year Award to Nick Zito, trainer of last year's Preakness winner, Louis Quatorze. Part-owners of the horse, William J. and Mary Jo Condren and Joseph M. and Eileen Cornacchia were at the party.
Other guests were Dr. George Dover, director of the Children's Center, and his wife, Barbara; Bob and Beverly Lewis, owners of Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, and their son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Margery Lewis; Tom Meeker, president Churchill Downs; Joe DeFrancis, Maryland Jockey Club; and Joe Kelly, the bugler who called the horses to post on Preakness Day.
Another big event was the Mother's Day Fashion Extravaganza at Martin's West, which starred Baltimore-born television and movie star Jada Pinkett and her boyfriend, rapper turned television and movie actor Will Smith, star of last summer's blockbuster film "Independence Day."
Nearly a thousand people attended this benefit for the Northwest Baltimore Corp., an umbrella organization that works to foster inter-neighborhood communication and cooperation in Northwest Baltimore.
"That's what friends are for" could have been the theme song of this Travis Winkey-produced fashion show, because it was Jada's longtime friendship with Winkey that brought her and Will to Baltimore. I am told Jada modeled two outfits and that Will did a great job keeping guests in a good humor while a blown generator was being repaired so the fashion show could go on.
Two prominent Baltimoreans, Warren Green, CEO of Sinai FTC Hospital, and Lydell Mitchell, former Baltimore Colts great who's now a Parks Sausage exec, were honored at the event. (Unfortunately, Mitchell was under the weather and couldn't attend.)
Center Stage Presents
Center Stage put on quite a show for its 11th Annual Center Stage Presents fund-raiser. Headlining was Ann Hampton Callaway, a talented singer/songwriter who has performed in many of the most prestigious nightclubs in the world.
Dressed in a shimmering Bill Blass creation, she belted out an array of favorite love songs and then thrilled all when she took only a few minutes to write a song about Baltimore using words supplied by the members of the audience.
Before Callaway's performance, guests gathered in the Head Theater for cocktails, a delicious buffet dinner and some table-by-table trickery by illusionist J.B. Benn.
It was nice to see old pals Sloane Brown of Channel 45 and Maryland Public Television, and her husband, Dr. Steve Sobelman; Channel 2's Rudy Miller and her husband, Chuck Allen; and Channel 13's Deborah Stone and her husband, Stanford Hess. I also spotted gala co-chairs Terry Morgenthaler, Amy Elias and Jay Jenkins; Peter Culman, Center Stage's managing director; Hanan and Carole Sibel; Judy McMullen and Richard Jamison; Susan Andrews; Wil and Sandy Sirota; Liz and Andrew Malis; Jane and Mark Goldstrom; and Nancy Roches, president of the theater's board of trustees.
Shock Trauma gala
Our party photographer made a stop at the McDonogh School, where more than 1,100 people had come to support this year's Shock Trauma Gala. Money raised from the event will go toward new equipment and programs for the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, and toward emergency medical services programs throughout the state.