Youth rules in `oval of craziness'

Pimlico infield party isn't rainout as exhibitionism and beer-drinking reign

May 21, 2000|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Security guard Quanna Salley, 20, said she refuses to work the Preakness infield, where thousands of muddy, baseball hat-wearing, beer-guzzling twentysomethings were so busy partying yesterday, they barely noticed there was a horse race."They throw beer cans in the air, naked girls in the air," said Salley. "It's wild. I guess that's their way of having fun."

Neither rain nor chilly temperatures could deter the more than 60,000 people who descended upon the soggy infield, most of whom used yellow police tape to mark their party spot. They toted Frisbees, footballs and overflowing coolers."You can tell the rookies because they have cases of beer," said Brant Smith, 30, who lives in Canton. "Then they'll graduate to Styrofoam, then trash cans."

For Smith, the Preakness is just an excuse to drink and get rowdy with his friends."You remember college?" he asked. "It's not much different than this."

Jeff Adeli, who drove down from Philadelphia, said he was there to reconnect with his past."I'm trying to relive my youth," said Adeli, 26. "The average age of this crowd is 20."

Adeli looked across the field and marveled at the spectacle."The city of Baltimore is pretty courageous for letting 90,000 people come here and bring as much beer as possible," he said. "It's an oval of craziness."

Bill Zink, 20, was throwing a dense foam football across the crowd to his buddy, even though his friend was some distance away."If I hit someone with it, they won't feel it until tomorrow," Zink said as he chucked the ball. "Everyone's too drunk to feel it now."

Police were on hand to break up any fights, but other than that, they basically left the crowd alone. A strong smell of marijuana was apparent, and women lifted their shirts throughout the day.

Every few minutes, a whooping crowd would congregate somewhere on the vast field, and a smiling, bare-chested young woman would be hoisted above the crowd."It's anadrenalin rush," said Jamie Morris, 18, one of many who shed their inhibitions in what has become a tradition of exhibitionism at Baltimore's best-known outdoor bash. "For like two seconds I felt like Alanis Morissette and whatnot."

She said she also does it because it's what guys expect. "It's stupid but it's what they want," she said. "I do it for attention, it's so totally for publicity," she said.

Kim Shupe, a 24-year-old hair stylist who lives in Glen Burnie, said she sees the exhibitionism as a way to meet people."Once you do it you have this whole crowd that's attracted to you," Shupe said."You can be walking along two hours later and someone will walk up to you and start talking about it."

Kathy Carr, 42, had a box seat but took a stroll through the infield during the afternoon."I haven't been to the infield for 15 years and nothing's changed," said Carr, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "This isn't my scene anymore. It's too crowded, too many drunk kids."

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