Preakness Parade of Lights to return despite city budget shortfall

Corporate sponsorship keeps annual tradition afloat

April 30, 2010|By Sam Sessa, The Baltimore Sun

The economy might still be recovering, but this year's Preakness celebration won't be scaled back as expected — thanks to a new sponsor and a charity race, officials announced Friday.

Earlier this year, Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said she planned to cut the annual Preakness Parade of Lights from the weeklong celebration because of city budget shortfalls. But MI Developments, the parent company of Magna Entertainment Corp., offered to sponsor the parade to keep the annual tradition alive.

"At one point the parade was dead," said Bill Gilmore, executive director of the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts. "We didn't really have the wherewithal to pull it off. As soon as it went public, they stepped up and the mayor got a call that said, ‘We want to make this happen.' "

New this year is a Preakness 5K, which will be run at Pimlico Race Course to benefit the Maryland Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Preakness, which draws as many as 100,000 and has a $40 million economic impact, is "a chance for the city, the state and Pimlico to take center stage in eyes across the world," said Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club.

Here are the events included in this year's Preakness celebration:

•On May 8, Pimlico will host the Preakness 5K, a walk/run that begins at 10 a.m. on the historic course used for Preakness, heads to Mount Washington and finishes at the infield. Runners can register by Tuesday at

•Featuring bouncy "hippity-hops," the kid-friendly Pee Wee Preakness is 11 a.m. May 11 at Federal Hill Park.

•At noon May 12, amphibians will compete to set records for the highest jump as part of the Preakness Frog Hop, held at Patterson Park. To register, call 410-396-6136.

•Maryland's favorite bottom-dwellers will scuttle toward the finish line in the annual Crab Derby, held at noon May 13 at Lexington Market. The winner will receive a $500 prize, to be awarded to charity.

•Hot-air balloons of all sizes and stripes will be on display at the Hot Air Balloon Festival, 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. May 14 at Turf Valley in Ellicott City. The free event features balloon rides, vendors and children's activities.

•Floats, helium balloons and marching bands are part of the Preakness Parade of Lights, 8:30 p.m. May 14. The parade marches from Market Place to 1st Mariner Arena, with Ravens running back Willis McGahee as grand marshal.

•At 6:30 a.m. May 15, balloons will take off from Turf Valley in Ellicott city.

Sun reporter Erica Green contributed to this article.

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