Neighbors prepare to ride out race fans

Pimlico: Area businesses hope to cash in on the Preakness crowd, while residents just try to make it through the day.

Preakness Stakes

May 15, 2004|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

Maybe Smarty Jones will capture the second leg of the Triple Crown today, and maybe he won't. But one sure bet at the Preakness Stakes is the free flow of alcohol.

"I'm expecting some extra business," said Saeyong Oh, owner of Knight's Liquor on Park Heights Avenue one block from Pimlico Race Course. "I'm hoping for maybe 10 or 15 percent more business. I'll stock extra beer in the coolers."

Oh is hoping horse racing fans, in turn, stock their coolers with a stop in his store.

For businesses and residents near Pimlico, the third Saturday in May is certain to bring tens of thousands of visitors to the neighborhood. For some with an entrepreneurial spirit, the big race brings a few extra bucks; for others in the neighborhood, it simply brings aggravation.

"You'll see people selling parking spaces in their yards, and signs will pop up everywhere for yard sales or snow cone or lemonade tables," said Trina Robinson, who was mowing her mother's lawn yesterday on Ethelbert Avenue.

Fans try to park in Robinson's mother's driveway, which leads to a deep side yard. "She always says `no' because she doesn't want cars parked on her grass," Robinson said.

Many people put up ropes or chains blocking off their property.

Rick Fullard, owner of the Yellow Bowl, a popular diner on Park Heights Avenue, sees an increase in business each Preakness morning.

"We get all of the workers that are going into the track in the morning to report for work," said Fullard, whose restaurant opens at 5 a.m. on Saturdays. "As far as the fans, we don't get too many of them because they bring their own food or they buy food at the Preakness."

Some years, Fullard said, children with carts make extra cash toting bags and other belongings for fans who have parked far from the track.

Bernice Brooks of the 3200 block of Hayward Ave. said the neighborhood gets spruced up a bit for the Preakness, courtesy of the race course.

"They clean up the alleys and the vacant yards, which are not their property. It's the only time of the year that they do it. I guess they want to impress their fans," Brooks said.

A cleaning crew was sprucing up a vacant lot that wraps around a boarded-up McDonald's restaurant near Park Heights and Hayward avenues, an area on the tour bus route to the track.

"We've been here since 8 o'clock this morning sweeping," said Ralph Cummings, who added that Pimlico hired the workers yesterday from a temporary employment agency. "We'll work all weekend, cleaning up around here and then over to the main building cleaning up."

The Preakness traffic can also be a hassle for the surrounding neighborhoods and for nearby Sinai Hospital.

Streets around the race course are blocked off or changed to one way, making it difficult for patients and workers to get to the hospital, spokeswoman Jill Bloom said.

"If you are a pregnant woman and go into labor, well, when you hit one of those areas blocked off, you'll have to tell the police your situation and ask them to let you through," Bloom said.

"If you are a visitor, you might want to come way before [race-day activities start] because it is hard to get around," she said.

For some neighbors, the Preakness can be a headache, with more than 100,000 spectators expected.

But for most people on both sides of the track -- in lower-income Park Heights to the south and middle-class Mount Washington to the north -- the Preakness is just one inconvenient day each year that is mostly worth putting up with.

"There'll be a lot of people walking around, walking through your yard, walking around your house, but it doesn't bother me," Brooks said. "It's a big deal, and I like it."

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