"Anyone who is important has to come through here," said band leader Alan Dale, a drummer.
In a tent where Hats in the Belfry was selling hats and Faders was selling premium hand-rolled cigars, Kathleen Buren, a stay-at-home mom from Lutherville, tried on a $1,700 teal creation. She and her husband, who met at Preakness and return every year, were invited to the tent party by friends.
"I love hats. Can you tell?" she said as she primped in the mirror. "We're just walking around and enjoying it" and planned later to meet some people in the grandstand.
Mike Rogers, who was selling cigars, said sales had been steady since 10 a.m.
"It's a lot steadier than last year," he said.
In the neighborhood surrounding Pimlico, it was a day to make money. Residents hawked parking spaces, water and food.
"Jerk chicken! Jerk chicken!" a man called out from a front porch on Winner Avenue, across the street from Pimlico. Farther down the avenue, Pamela Chapman was looking only to save souls with 7th Day Adventist pamphlets.
The big crowd gave her a chance to interact with lots of people, though she did not condone the reason they were flocking to the racecourse.
"We don't gamble," Chapman said.
Hours before the Preakness Stakes, Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas gave Gov. Martin O'Malley a tour of the stables. The duo strolled toward the Stakes barn, which O'Malley later described as possessing "chapel-like calm."
"This is a great day," Chuckas said. "The crowd keeps coming in. The infield is picking up."
In an election year, politicians usually make the rounds at Preakness. But O'Malley's main rival, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was a no-show this year. Even O'Malley kept a fairly low profile. After his stable tour, he disappeared into a private gathering.
O'Malley toured the stables with a 14-year-old niece, Theresa Schempp, who rides horses.
"Irish all the way," she said when asked why she favored Paddy O'Prado.
But O'Malley said "part of me wants Super Saver" to win, because of the possibility of the Triple Crown.
Todd Pletcher, who trained Derby winner Super Saver, shook hands with the governor, who congratulated the New York-based trainer. "Are you feeling good?" O'Malley asked him. "Yes, sir, very good," Pletcher replied.
Baltimore Sun reporters Lorraine Mirabella, Julie Bykowicz, Erica Green, Peter Hermann and Sam Sessa contributed to this article.