Party flows, case at time

Infield: Enjoyment was obviously a distance race for the 80,000 people who packed the Pimlico infield all day to drink and horse around - with or without the races.

May 20, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

The T-shirt-wearing, beer-guzzling, breast-baring troops marched onto the Pimlico infield and in short order set up a camp more Daytona Beach than Baltimore.

They carried in their arms essentials for 12 hours of partying: rations of beer (seemingly at least one case per person), chairs, blankets, tarps, tents and coolers.

They had cell phones in their hands, Daily Racing Forms in their pockets and foam coolers on their heads. Some came by chauffeured shopping cart (a ride went for about $5 to the neighborhood resident pushing the "borrowed" cart).

In the mud-sodden, crushed-can trenches, a group of engineering majors built a three-story cardboard monument to the Preakness: the "Love Shack." They made the most of boxes discarded by food and clothing vendors. By infield standards, this was prime real estate, air-conditioned by a slight breeze, equipped with nearby ice coolers and lined with a fleece blanket.

"We were going to charge $1 for kisses inside," said one of the Love Shack architects, Kendra Johnson, 24, of Federal Hill. "But after about six kisses, I decided it wasn't such a good idea. It was attracting the wrong sort of crowd. It was a bad profit."

Johnson and fellow recent Penn State grads Tom Wilson, 23, and Adam Sheik, 23, said they were considering renting their recyclable fort after dusk.

This was not the quickest way to make money. A veteran infield warrior knows the surest bet at the track yesterday was that the infield portable potties would run out of toilet paper.

Dana Wallnoffer, 25, of Forest Hill in Harford County, brought extra rolls and was considering selling them later. Wallnoffer brought her friend, Amanda Newcomer, to the infield for the first time. She came most prepared for the battle better known as infield partying.

"I'm the mom in the group," said Newcomer, a 22-year-old graduate student from Westminster.

She had an umbrella, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, animal crackers, fruit punch, water, magazines, hand sanitizer and even a first-aid kit.

There were few injuries and even fewer arrests reported by police on the scene. By 7 p.m., about 150 people had been ejected from the racetrack for disorderly conduct, all from the infield.

However, police officers from tactical patrol units conceded that if they were to arrest everyone for drunk and disorderly conduct, they would have to haul away most of the more than 80,000 people on the infield.

"It's not that bad this year," said Baltimore City Police Sgt. Curtis N. Wilson, who oversaw yesterday's madness.

In the infield, the entertainment wasn't so much the horses as it was the drunken crowd reacting to the thoroughbreds.

Gerald Weiser, 22, of Long Beach, N.Y., and Pat Maddigan, 21, of Cape Cod, Mass., both were raising their cans of beer to the horses running yesterday. "We're here for them," Maddigan said.

Neither worried about the threatening clouds. "Horses run in the rain. We party in the rain," Weiser said, echoing the commitment of many in the infield.

From their lawn chairs, Hannah Koffler, 22, of Waynesburg, Pa., and her boyfriend, Rob Connolly, 21, of Odenton, had little chance of seeing the races. But they saw the biggest race of the infield.

An apparently drunken man ran along the fence racing a horse. The man lost.

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