Surveying the debris littering the Pimlico infield the day after the 130th running of the Preakness, one could conclude that many a racegoer left Baltimore's biggest party drunk, naked, shoeless and happy (or perhaps, regretful).
And, possibly, it was all caught on film.
The evidence: beer cans and plastic bottles as far as the eye could see; underwear; articles of clothing, including socks and shoes; and boxes from disposable cameras.
And then there was the stench. The midmorning sun warmed the trash yesterday, intensifying a putrid aroma of day-old beer mixed with even more distasteful smells.
Veterans of the post-Preakness cleanup say they are no longer surprised by what they find, but sometimes, if they're lucky, they're delighted by the small treasures that can, for them, add up to big bucks. And, many workers admit, they can't help but draw conclusions about the Preakness partyers based on what they leave behind.
"I come because you never know what you'll find," said Ray Sparkman, who's worked on the cleanup crew for three years. "It's like the guys at the beach with the metal detectors. It's the same thing."
About 9:30 a.m., Anthony Hughes, 42, of Baltimore sat in a folding camping chair, testing it and considering whether to take it home. He decided that it was comfortable enough and not too dirty, so he'd hang on to it. Last year, he says, he found $200. By midmorning yesterday, he hadn't been that lucky but was holding out hope.
Several other workers said a friend who had come with them yesterday found a roll of $50 and $100 bills. He left for the day and caught a cab home.
Others said they routinely find jewelry, watches, cash, unopened beers, unclaimed winning tickets and other salable items.
J.R. Williams of Dundalk said he found $500 last year, all in one spot.
"If it's a wallet or an ID, I turn it in," Williams said. "If it's loose cash, it's mine."
The lure of forsaken valuables draws others who aren't part of the paid cleanup crew.
Yesterday, Ely Young and Mary Bennett, who live and work in the backstretch, were trying to empty a large inflatable swimming pool they guessed had been used as a beer cooler. With Bennett on one end and Young on the other, they attempted, unsuccessfully at first, to tip it over.
"Why don't you take the watermelon out first?" Bennett said.
Once they emptied out the water and the watermelon, Bennett said she would deflate the pool and take it home to her children.
"It's brand new," she said, pointing to the box the pool came in. In the same area, Bennett collected an armful of unopened beer. "It's my brand," she said, showing off a can.
Young also found a modest amount in winning tickets - some people probably didn't realize they had won money. Winning tickets are good for a year.
Young collected about $100 in winnings by midmorning, but he said he's found tickets worth as much as $300 in years past.
But beyond the salvageable and the valuable, there still was just the plain old nasty garbage: squeezable condiment bottles; remnants of Styrofoam coolers; wet magazines and soggy newspapers; playing cards; a Slip 'n Slide; half-eaten food; and broken umbrellas and lawn chairs.
Dave Korol, operations manager for Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group, said his company cleans up after sporting events all over the country, including after horse races in Florida. But nothing compares to what he and about 250 workers faced yesterday morning.
"I never see trash like this anywhere else," said Korol, who was double-gloved as he heaved near-bursting bags of garbage onto a truck. "What does the trash tell me? P-A-R-T-Y - in capital letters with an exclamation point."
The company used its own cleanup crew for yesterday's task, Korol said, supplemented by day labor through a temp agency. About 175 workers were dispatched to the infield, and 75 more were assigned to clean up the parking lots and the rest of Pimlico Race Course.
Sparkman, whose friend found the wad of cash yesterday, can't help but draw a distinction between those who trash Pimlico and those who are paid - some said as little as $5 - to clean it up.
"They got it like that," he said of the infield crowd. "They can afford to lose stuff like that."
Starr Wiseman, 20, of Essex said she felt nauseated when she arrived for cleanup duty. "I feel like I'm in a dump. ... I know people's animals who are cleaner than this," she said.
But Bennett, who left with the beer, swimming pool and a beach umbrella, said that even though the mess is indisputably disgusting, she doesn't begrudge the mess-makers.
"It's funny to me," she said. "And by the end of the day it'll all be gone, like no one was here."