After race, trashy treasures abound

Tossed tickets, beers are for the taking at Preakness cleanup

May 22, 2006|By DOUG DONOVAN | DOUG DONOVAN,SUN REPORTER

Janaira Shellow had no idea what job she and her sister had taken when they accepted a temp agency's invitation to appear at 2 a.m. yesterday at its Delaware office.

Shellow said they simply showed up and boarded a van bound for Baltimore. Destination: Preakness cleanup.

When she entered Pimlico Race Course's day-after infield, armed with a rake and rubber gloves, she wanted to turn and race back up the interstate. But she was trapped - by trash.

"We wanted to die when we saw it," said Shellow, 20, as she and sister Elunda Perkins, both from Wilmington, Del., raked crushed beer cans into a pile. "Would we do it again? No."

Shellow said she was shocked by the waste. "These people need to be ashamed of themselves," she said of Preakness partygoers.

The sisters were joined by nearly 300 other workers, mostly from Labor Ready Inc., who either worked through the night cleaning the clubhouse and grandstand or arrived near dawn for infield duty.

Mike Bowers, a supervisor there for the hauler Allied Waste, said the infield - which Pimlico's Web site says can hold 60,000 people - would produce 50 to 70 tons of trash.

Mixed among the layer of crushed cans, workers steadily gathered piles of sweat shirts, boxer shorts, inflatable kiddie pools, shrimp, sandwiches, pretzels, bread, and at least one bottle of Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay Puerto Rican Rum with Natural Mango (empty, of course).

Much of the partially eaten food flattened on the ground came from tents run by Maryland Turf Catering. Jack O'Brien, a catering official, arrived about 9 a.m. yesterday to pack up the company's equipment. He said it came prepared on Saturday with 10,000 hot dogs, 1,200 pounds of sausage and 700 pounds of barbecue.

While he did not sell all of his food items, he ran out of alcohol. The Black-Eyed Susans he served - a fruity mixed drink that includes Cointreau, rum and vodka as the Preakness answer to the Kentucky Derby's mint julep - were gone by 4:30 Saturday afternoon, an hour and a half before the big race.

"It's a mess," O'Brien said. "It's always a mess."

A steady morning breeze yesterday spared crews from what in hotter conditions would have been the stench of festering food and alcohol - mango, flat beer and barbecue. While the detritus did not speak kindly of the infielders, at least one person had considered hygiene: Amid the cans lay a lone purple toothbrush.

"It's Sin City out here during Preakness," said Terence West, district manager for Labor Ready. "It's Las Vegas and New Orleans all wrapped up into one."

Many of the workers eagerly eyed the rubbish for lost money, or uncashed winning tickets. But few were satisfied by midmorning. They assembled their piles of debris, bagged them and watched as 11 trucks hauled it off.

But when asked if he had found anything, Walker Gibson, 23, of Baltimore dangled the keys to a Ford automobile like a treasure. (In case the owner is reading, the keys included a Giant Eagle supermarket discount card.)

He said he also found five dollars.

But, for the most part, the cherished find of the day for some was the one thing that was not a rare commodity: beers.

"You could go into business with all the unopened beers out here," said Michael R. Hicks, 45, of Baltimore, who pushed a broom all morning through the tunnel linking the infield to the track exit.

One temporary employee of Labor Ready, which reported to cleanup manager Pritchard Sports & Entertainment Group, was thrown out for partaking of the free and abundant beverage.

Tyrone Clash, a Pritchard supervisor, said he escorted the worker out.

"He started about 5 a.m., but he was drunk by 7 a.m.," Clash said. "I have 47 people that I'm supervising, and he was the only one."

But he wasn't the only beer scavenger.

Sarah Airey, 21, said she and her two pals left their duties in a Pimlico barn to collect unopened beer and anything else worth salvaging.

The trio towed a junked but functional cooler filled with their finds: beads, bread, beer, mustard bottles and suntan lotion. Airey said she had filled seven coolers with unopened beers.

"We're going to party for a week on this stuff," she said.

Her body wrapped in yellow "caution" tape and red "danger" tape, Airey pulled a large plastic pool with a smaller pool inside it, and headed toward a patch of grass near empty betting booths.

If it was jettisoned betting tickets that Airey wanted, the grassy spot would have left her disappointed.

That's because Edward Holden, 49, who lives in the nearby Park Heights area, had made his rounds, scouring the ground for the small slips of paper.

Holden said he has been walking onto the infield, no problem, for nearly a decade to find tickets.

"I find a winning ticket every year," he said - noting last year's post-Preakness find of a betting slip worth $198.

He arrived at 6 a.m., filled one bag with tickets and worked to fill a second. He was trying to make up for his bet on Barbaro, the 3-year-old Preakness favorite who broke three bones in his right hind leg early in the race.

"I felt bad about that horse," he said, bending down for a ticket.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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