Preakness Week

UP FRONT

They're off and running ... and soaring ... and sailing ... and marching

May 06, 1999|By Randi Kest | Randi Kest,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The stakes are high at this year's Preakness extravaganza, and the horses are not the only participants preparing for the event.

The spirit of competition will spread through the city as swift sprinters, skilled balloonists and savvy sailors take part in the hot-air balloon race, 5-K Preakness Run and a Great Schooner Race during the annual weeklong Preakness Celebration. It begins tomorrow and continues through May 15, the day of the Preakness Stakes.

Other races during the celebration include the lighthearted Preakness Crab Derby, Lee's Ice Cream Banana Split Stakes and the Pee Wee Preakness.

On your marks...

There are five hot-air balloon events preceding the 124th running of the Preakness Stakes. Four different launches will take place during the week, and a concourse of more than 25 illuminated balloons will sail to the skies during the Balloonglow after a country music concert.

Of special interest is the balloon race taking off Saturday at 7 a.m. Druid Hill Park is the place to see more than 25 balloonists from around the country spark up their burners.

Traveling from the park, the balloons will compete in a "Hare and Hound" competition, the hare being a lead balloon and the hounds being the followers. The Hounds will chase the Hare about five miles before the hare descends and marks a finish line. The hound that lands closest to the marker wins.

Dan Sherrill, president of the American Balloon Corp., has been organizing the Preakness balloon events for nine years. "Flying out of Druid Hill is one of the most picturesque scenes you can find," he says. Sherrill finds that there is so much to do in Baltimore and that the balloonists who participate in Preakness Week have such a blast, they love coming back each year to compete. Call 410-837-3030 for more information.

A race wouldn't be a race without a pasta party. Tomorrow night from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., preceding Saturday's 5-K Preakness Run, runners and guests are invited to power up for $8 with a meal at Frankie & Vinnie's in Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn, prepared by Carrabba's Italian Grill. Call 410-837-3030.

Saturday at 9 a.m., athletes of all ages and levels will gather at Rash Field for the 6th annual First Mariner Bank 5-K Preakness Run. The race winds 3.1 miles along Key Highway to Lawrence Street and Fort McHenry, concluding at a finish line in the park.

Participants can warm up before the run with members of the gym Brick Bodies and compete with players from the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team.

David Cooley, owner of road race management company the Finished Product, has organized the Preakness 5-K for the past six years and says he enjoys this particular event "because it's so festive." He says the difference between this race and others he's organized is the people who participate. "A lot of different people run in this race than in others. ... It's a social thing," he says.

Entries are $20. A post-race buffet will be provided by Sam's Bagels, the Maryland Hotel and Motel Association and Anheuser-Busch. This race has been voted the best 5-K in the Washington/Baltimore area by a reader's poll in MetroSports magazine. Call 410-377-8882.

After the 5-K at 11 a.m. will be the 26th annual Preakness Parade. The best places to see the parade are on Charles Street south of Chase Street and on Pratt Street. The parade ends at Market Place.

Get set...

It's a far cry from the Whitbread, but the Great Schooner Race is not something to miss. Celebrating Charm City's love for all things nautical, the race welcomes area schooners to the harbor to strut their stuff for the city. Beginning at 3 p.m. next Thursday, five ships will make a four-mile loop from the harbor to Fort McHenry and back.

Martin Weiss, who prefers to be known as Captain Martin, will be sailing the Nighthawk. He says he likes the Great Schooner Race because it is more spectator-oriented than most schooner races. "It's good for the people to see a sight that you don't usually see," he says. It is rare to see a group of these 19th-century vessels sailing en masse in this day and age.

The Clipper City, Lady Maryland and Sigsbee are also participating. Concluding the event will be a water-hose salute by the City Fire Department's fireboat. The boats are expected to reach the finish line between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Call 410-837-3030.

The smaller-scale races planned for Preakness Week are bound to be just as exciting, and amusing, as the larger competitions. On Tuesday, the free Pee Wee Preakness takes place at noon in Federal Hill Park. Children from Baltimore day-care centers, nursery schools and kindergartens jockey for first place astride hobby horses. Prizes will be awarded to the top riders. Call 410-837-4636.

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