Preakness 2010 cleans up quick

Bigger crowds left more trash than last year, but nothing cleanup crews couldn't handle

May 16, 2010|By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun

For a place that just threw a big, beer-soaked party for 95,000 revelers, Pimlico Race Course sure cleaned up well.

By midday Sunday, the track complex had largely recovered from the previous day's Preakness Stakes partying, and that included the infield. The sea of debris left by spectators — cups, cans, food scraps, food wrappers, even underwear — had been mostly picked up by a small army of cleanup workers, loaded onto trucks and hauled away.

The cleanup was only one piece of a larger puzzle that basically returned Pimlico to its customary sedateness. From the infield to the parking lots, crews broke down stages and tents, power-washed some 80 rented golf carts, stacked 7,000 folding chairs and removed nearly 500 portable toilets.

Just as attendance rebounded from last year's disappointing turnout of 77,850, so did garbage volume. Allied Waste Services took away roughly 100 tons of refuse, supervisor Dennis Castillo said, compared to about 80 tons last year. In prior years, when crowds regularly topped 100,000 and people could bring in coolers of beer, waste often topped 150 tons.

"You used to couldn't walk on the infield, it was so bad," Castillo said, recalling past Preakness aftermaths. This year, patches of grass were visible amid the garbage. "We used to be out till noon" the next day, packing and hauling trash, Castillo added. "Look, it's 10 and we're done."

Indeed, a few minutes later, at 10:22, Allied Waste driver Ernie Flynn turned the ignition on a Mack truck and rumbled out of Pimlico with the morning's final load, bound for the Russell Street trash incineration plant.

The post-Preakness cleanup had begun in earnest more than four hours earlier, as the sun was rising on the quieted infield. "It was trashed," said Roland Hayden, president of Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group, which handles cleanup at Pimlico year-round.

More than 250 temporary workers fanned out in a coordinated attack beginning at 6 a.m. "It looked like Hell," temporary worker John Johnson said, "like Satan and all his crew had met together down there."

Another temp, Pamela Bey, cleaning up after her first Preakness, said: "It was like a hurricane, like a tornado had just hit it."

Bey, 54, signed up for the $7.25-an-hour job at a hiring fair May 10. Though her back might have disagreed, she would have happily toiled longer than the three hours it took. With her son Gary headed to Temple University in the fall, every penny helps.

Before the job, Bey put on three pairs of rubber gloves. "You never know what you're going to be picking up," she said. She grabbed pizza, potato chips, french fries, paper, turkey slices, spare-rib bones and water bottles, along with a surprising number of unopened sodas and water bottles. She said she wishes it had been possible to separate out the recyclables, but on this day everything was garbage.

Bey also found socks here and there, but no underwear, thankfully. Johnson, however, came across both men's and women's underpants, a discovery that left him assuming that some took this year's "Get Your Preak On" slogan especially to heart.

Then again, abandoned underwear is hardly unknown at Preakness. "Years ago, that was rampant; it was like an orgy," Hayden noted.

The track ended its BYOB policy for last year's race, and one result has been a different mix of trash. This year, for example, Hayden's crews did not have to contend with those inflatable swimming pools used in years past to chill personal beer stashes.

And this year's longer beer lines might have produced a happy consequence beyond the widespread griping: Fewer things winding up at the lost and found. "People this year weren't as drunk," explained Willie Coleman, vice president of security, and hence less likely to misplace their belongings.

At the track security office, Coleman's assistant, Tracy Harris, unlocked a filing cabinet to reveal a small array of lost-and-found items: two cell phones, two driver's licenses, two credit cards, a makeup bag, eyeglasses and a wallet (whose owner planned to pick it up Sunday).

"This is nothing," Harris said, compared to stories she's heard about past years. A few people called to see if a lost item had been found. One woman said she was ejected by security while wearing only one shoe. Her second shoe had yet to surface, Harris told her.

In a parking lot, a row of golf carts received the cleansing blast of a power washer. All told, about 80 additional carts were at Pimlico last week to ferry security staff, maintenance crews and VIPs, said Chad Dunham, owner of Virginia Golf Cars, which provided the rentals.

Some spectators tried to bum rides, and late in the day one obviously "hammered" man offered him $20 for a ride to his car, presumably not with an intention of driving home. Dunham declined as a matter of policy. Besides, he said, the man was too inebriated.

"I could have driven him around for two days," Dunham said, "and he still wouldn't know where his car was."

Out on the infield, Jeff Martin helped supervise an operation to empty and haul away close to 500 portable toilets. Martin works for United Site Services, and the spot-a-pots were headed back to a warehouse in Waldorf.

Despite the considerable use they got, Martin said Preakness spectators treated them well, far better than in 2007 and 2008 when guys staged the infamous "Running of the Urinals." "They didn't team 'em up," he said, "so they were in good condition. I've seen a lot worse."

Meanwhile, in the middle of the infield Sunday, a trove of alcohol sat under a small tent, unattended and unmolested, like a desert mirage. For reasons that were not readily apparent, one bin contained several unopened cans of Beck's beer and bottles of Budweiser — still on ice.

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