Parade begins Preakness Week

An estimated 10,000 spectators turn out to watch 78 groups march in west-side event

May 14, 2006|By JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV | JOHN-JOHN WILLIAMS IV,SUN REPORTER

Milroy Harried, the owner of M Salon and Spa, got tired of competing with the gigantic balloons, loud marching bands and colorful dancers passing by his Eutaw Street window, so he stepped onto the sidewalk to get a better view.

Harried realized that attractions from yesterday's Westside Preakness Parade were more of a draw than a wash and cut.

"We had to put the hair on hold because all of our customers came outside to watch," Harried said. "I've been a Preakness Parade watcher for years. This by far is the best one."

The parade, which organizers estimated attracted 10,000 spectators, launched a week of festivities leading up to the 131st running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

"It's a way to get people excited," said Tracy Baskerville, communications director for Baltimore Office of Promotions and the Arts.

Candy Braxton left her seat at the salon before her stylist had finished with her hair. She swayed back and forth to the beat of the Baltimore Police Department Marching Revels drummers, still wearing a shower cap and smock.

"I've lived in Baltimore all my life, and by far this is the best parade ever," Braxton said. "I must be having a good time if I'm out here looking like this."

Christie Sturdivant, a makeup artist at the salon, followed her customers outside.

"I grew up with parades," she said. "I used to be in them when I was a little girl."

Seventy-eight groups and more than 1,400 people participated in the hourlong parade. Marching bands from New Jersey, Kentucky, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington and Maryland took turns wowing the crowd with special drum cadences and intricate dance steps.

Marvin Ward, owner of Marjorie's Place, a soul-food restaurant on Paca Street, closed down his business. He liked the marching bands.

"They put on a nice show," Ward said.

Keyona Thornton of Baltimore has turned the parade into an annual tradition and said she will continue to bring her 2-year-old son, Dajuan, back to the parade in the future.

"I got a Frisbee, fliers for free doughnuts and candy," she said of the goodies tossed to the crowd by parade participants.

Amanda Gutin, a member of Phi Mu sorority at Towson University, said she and eight of her sorority sisters agreed to guide three star-shaped helium balloons because volunteers received free tickets to the Preakness.

"It's kind of tough," Gutin said, as she adjusted a long rope in preparation to lower the balloon under a traffic light. "It's all good."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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