High-stepping good time on the west side

Preakness Parade markets revitalization, horse race

May 09, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The annual Preakness Parade went down Eutaw Street yesterday, a route chosen as part of the city's campaign to market west-side revitalization. It featured the usual array of antique cars, horses, marching bands and floats -- but with a western twist.

There was the band from Edmondson-Westside High School. There were the Rough Riders, a group of cowboys emblematic of the old West. There were even majorettes and drummers from West High -- in Corning-Painted Post, N.Y.

The parade began just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard and passed such West Baltimore landmarks as Lexington Market and the newly refurbished Hippodrome Theatre. The parade has traditionally taken place at the Inner Harbor but officials said that this year, west seemed best.

"The city has a long history of using special events to market areas, and the west side is so up-and-coming," said Bill Gilmore, who helped organize the parade for Baltimore's Office of Promotion and the Arts. "We used to do events at the Inner Harbor, but we don't need to do that anymore."

Events like the parade -- held a week before the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course -- make visible the improvements that are happening every month, said City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

"It's more than obvious good things are happening here," she said. "The numbers are there now, the private investors."

Parade watchers, who lined Eutaw Street by the hundreds to see the parade, said they were happy to see an event somewhere other than the Inner Harbor.

"It's less congested here, and more people can get out to see it," said Maxine Shearin, who drove from Essex to see the parade with her 8-year-old granddaughter, Kristina Ford. "It's really for the kids, and a lot of them can't afford the bus fare to get downtown, or their parents don't have the time to walk them."

Edna Dixon said yesterday's parade was her first, but she bounced with excitement as she videotaped her granddaughter passing by in the James B. Cross Citywide Marching Band.

The Edmondson Village resident said West Baltimore needs more showcases for its children.

"We need to keep the children here and give them something to do," she said. "It's a positive effect, yes it is. People get to see the children here do something positive."

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