Pre-Preakness festivities

There's plenty of horsing around for everyone before the Preakness


This year's Preakness Celebration adds a few new concerts to the annual lineup of family-oriented events. The Preakness Frog Hop, Crab Derby and parade are standards for the decades-old pre-race festivities, but free shows by the Saw Doctors and Donegal X-Press are new.

"I would say it's better," said celebration coordinator Laura Clark. "We always strive to make it a little better each year and make it more exciting. We pretty much stay with a lot of the same events, but we try to make it bigger and better each year." Tomorrow:

Ireland's the Saw Doctors kick off the Preakness Celebration with a free outdoor concert at Inner Harbor East, on Lancaster Street between South Exeter Street and Central Avenue. Celtic rock band Barleyjuice opens the show at 6 p.m. Saturday:

The Preakness Celebration's Preakness 5K starts at 9 a.m. at Pimlico Race Course. The course weaves through parts of Mount Washington and finishes at Pimlico's infield. Registration is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the race.

Pimlico is at 5201 Park Heights Ave. Call 410-542-9400.

At 11 a.m., the Preakness Parade starts at Martin Luther King Boulevard and marches down Eutaw Street to Lombard Street. It features two main floats, four helium balloon characters, marching bands and military honor guards. Tuesday:

Children will bounce across Federal Hill Park on Hippity Hops as part of the Pee Wee Preakness, which starts at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday:

About 20 amphibians will hop their hearts out at the Preakness Frog Hop at noon. People generally bring their own little Kermits, but several people come with loaners. Each frog begins on a starter lily pad, and then jumps three times. Judges measure the distance from the pad to the last frog footmark to determine the victor. The record is about 14 feet, said organizer Bob Wall. The contest is outside City Hall at War Memorial Plaza. Call 410-396-9392. Wednesday through May 19:

You can see Pimlico's inner works at Sunrise at Old Hilltop, an open house that runs 6 a.m.-9 a.m. Wednesday, May 18 and May 19. Visit with trainers and tour the stable area, Preakness barn and museum. Guided tours set off every 15 minutes and last about a half hour, said Diana Goddard, Pimlico's director of promotions. Free.

"It's an awesome time to be here -- really an unbelievable time," Goddard said.

Pimlico is at 5201 Park Heights Ave. Call 410-542-9400.

Miller Lite Nites, free concerts at Power Plant Live, start at 8 p.m. all three days. Mr. Greengenes plays Wednesday, Puddle of Mudd performs May 18 and Faded Image featuring Rob Byer is May 19. The shows are 21 and older. May 18:

At noon, Lexington Market (400 W. Lexington St., 410-685-6169) hosts the Preakness Crab Derby, where local business leaders and celebrities race the crustaceans on the arcade stage to raise $500 for charity. The winning crab gets returned to the bay, and the losers get Old Bay, said Casper J. Genco Jr., the market's executive director.

"At Lexington Market, we call that a motivation to win," he said.

If the weather holds and the air stays calm, 15 balloons will launch from Oregon Ridge Park at 6:30 p.m. May 18 and 6:30 a.m. May 19-20 for the Preakness Balloon Fest. Each flight from Oregon Ridge will last about an hour. On May 19, the balloons will also lift off from the Inner Harbor's Rash Field at dusk for the Balloon Moon Glow. Flames from the balloons' burners will light up the Inner-city sky.

"It really makes a pretty scene," said organizer and pilot Ron Broderick.

The park is at 13401 Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville. Call 410-887-1818. May 19:

Pimlico's Preakness Eve starts at 10:45 a.m. with local and national jockeys signing autographs. At 11:30 a.m., officials will host a session to explain the racing form and give wagering tips. From noon to 2 p.m., authors Dorothy Ours and Patrick Smithwick will sign their books Man O' War and Racing My Father, respectively. Post time for the first of 13 races is 12:15 p.m. Gates open at 10 a.m. and admission is $3.

Pimlico is at 5201 Park Heights Ave. Call 410-542-9400.

Local Irish outfit the Donegal X-Press will play a free outdoor concert in the middle of Belvedere Square. The show, dubbed Twas the Night Before Preakness, runs 6 p.m.-9 p.m.

A barge in the Inner Harbor near the National Aquarium will launch about 10 minutes worth of fireworks to celebrate Preakness Eve at 9:30 p.m. May 20:

The big day. Gates open at 8 a.m. and the first race is at 10:30 a.m. Preakness post time is about 6 p.m. Standing-room-only general admission is $20. Infield tickets are $40-$55.

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