On the east side of the track, standing a few feet from police and traffic officers along a stretch of Winner Avenue in the Pimlico area, enterprising neighborhood residents offered their driveways, front and backyards as parking spots for the SUVs, trucks, and vans rolling in, waving handmade cardboard signs that read “Parking $20.”
John Brickhouse, sporting a Bluetooth, says that he has been out selling parking spaces since 7 a.m. and boasts that his personal driveway on Ingleside Avenue is now filled with cars, giving him a tidy profit for the day.
“The early bird gets the early worm,” Brickhouse says.
Nearby, Yvette Lindy said it hadn’t occurred to her to make money off the Preakness until her niece, a firefighter, suggested it that morning. She hastily put together a sign with pieces of computer paper and had been out on Winner Avenue since 9 a.m.
“My grandfather used to do it years ago,” said Lindy, a mail carrier. The way police now block off the streets has made selling spots on the east side of the racetrack more difficult, she said. “Ten, fifteen years ago, the streets were open. It’s different now. You really got to get out there and do it.”
The smell of grilling hot dogs and burgers wafts over the street. Childhood friends and longtime neighborhood residents Jamar Johnson, 28, and Kalil Muhammud, 27, sell bottles of water, hamburgers, and hot dogs for a dollar, and cans of Red Bull for three dollars.
Johnson has stenciled 24 white T-shirts with an image of a horse and the word “Preakness.” By about 10 a.m., he had yet to sell a t-shirt but hoped to catch people on their way out of the races in the evening.
Muhammud says he expects to make $200 to $300 by the end of the day, and plans to attend the 12th race in the evening. His father took him as a young boy, and he now takes his son.
“I like it every year,” he said. “It’s only once a year that it happens.”
Nearby on Northern Parkway, a group of men calling themselves the “Preakness Hustlers” stood along the road, waving down cars and advertising parking spots for up to $25 each.
“For those who ain’t on their feet, for those behind on their bills, we look forward to this day to catch up on things,” said David Robinson, 40, a lifelong neighborhood resident.
Robinson said he expected to make “a minimum of $900 to $1000” in profit for the day. He had been out for just an hour, but already his face poured with sweat as he ran up and down the street flagging down cars.
“If you’re a good salesman, they will tip you,” Robinson said, adding that he has sold parking spots since he was 8 years old.
Antonio Goodman, who works in plumbing and heating, said he had parked about five cars by 10 a.m., and had been parking cars in the area since he was five years old. As Goodman, 31, ran after an SUV to convince the driver to park in his spot, a friend laughed after him, “Yo, you losing your mojo, yo!”
Goodman explained his strategy for the day: “You can’t be too aggressive with them, they the customers.”