Preakness For Dummies: The Infielder’s Party Guide

Preakness For Dummies: The Essential Infield Party Guide

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No, this isn’t the Kentucky Derby. That was a few weeks back…. This is the “Mardi Gras of Maryland“…. A place where the liquor flows and the infield crowd was known to be the wildest anywhere…. At least that’s the way it used to be….

Preakness, or known by its official title as “The Preakness Stakes” is the 2nd of three U.S. Triple Crown thoroughbred horse races held in America. The first being the Kentucky Derby and the last being the Belmont Stakes.

Named by a former Maryland Governor after a winning colt at Pimlico and termed “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” the attendance at Preakness ranks second only to the Kentucky Derby in North America beating out the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders’ Cup and the Kentucky Oaks.

Until 2009 the infield party at Preakness was rightfully called “Freakness” with all of the debauchery and shenanigans you’d expect to find on Bourbon Street. Everything from extreme drunkenness to girls baring parts their anatomy for the crowds and everything you can imagine in between.

In the “glory days” of the infield party things were a blast. Tiny “homes” popped up all over the infield like depression era shanty towns with all types of booze, food and privacy fences (usually made of rope, twine or tape). If you could name it, you could probably find it including all of the conveniences of home. More like a community picnic with 90,000 people drinking and carrying on. But then again, what else would you expect for a race named after a tavern!

Things began to change in 2009 when the Maryland Jockey Club decided to tone things down in order to attract more bettors and less drunks. As a result gone are the days when fans could bring anything into the infield including alcohol, food, card board refrigerator boxes for the private bathrooms. etc.

Now, all that’s allowed is food in coolers smaller than 28 x 15 x 17″, beach blankets, suntan lotion, cellular phones, cameras (up to 35mm), camcorders, binoculars and lawn chairs. No drinks (alcoholic or not) including water can be brought to the infield so it‘s no surprise that this move led to a 30% decrease in attendance in just 1 year from 112,222 in 2008 to 77,850 in 2009.

And while it’s understood that 100,000 tipsy people can get rowdy at times, Freakness, as the infield was known as has now become the “Meakness” with more and more people staying home to celebrate with a few close friends. So it’s this simmered down day at racetrack that we’ll be reporting on from this point.


The Preakness Party Planner’s Checklist:

If you decide to go the “stay-at-home” route you may want to have a get-together of your own. And whether you’re planning on just a few guests or a yard full, there’s a few important things to keep in mind to have a Preakness party pure and proper.

· The race is held in Baltimore, MD which known for their crabcakes.
· The official drink of the day is the Black-Eyed Susan,
· The official flower is the Black-Eyed Susan.
· The official song is Maryland, My Maryland. (It has the same melody as “Oh, Christmas Tree“)
· The official colors are black and gold which also happens to be Maryland‘s colors.

A Preakness Party is a definite party event whether you love horse racing or just love throwing parties! Preakness parties have maintained an image of pure alcohol insanity over the years so If you’re planning on keeping the tradition going, you should consider having provisions for stay-over guests!

Recipe: The Black Eyed Susan
· Serves: 1
· Prep Time: 5 minutes

1 1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz St. Germain
2 oz Pineapple juice
1/4 oz Lime juice
3/4 oz Orange juice

Mix it all together. Garnish with a fresh orange slice.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club


The best time to go:

Preakness is held on the third Saturday in May each year at at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

Preakness is actually a 2-day party beginning on Friday. As many as 40,000 people can be expected at the Baltimore track.

Friday is called the “The Ultimate Girls Day Out,” with a percentage of the proceeds earmarked for the fight against breast cancer. The highlights include the Lady Legends for the Cure, which brings together eight retired female riders in a pari-mutuel race; and the People’s People Party, featuring live infield concerts.


Where to go:

Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Preakness is big business for Maryland and the city of Baltimore.

And while it’s nice to be in the midst of all the action, what’s especially nice about Preakness (or any race for that matter) is that you don’t have to be at the racetrack to enjoy it.

There are so many bars and restaurants offering Preakness specials that it‘s hard to keep up. So whether you’re looking for something elegant or something casual, there’s a hangout spot somewhere in the DMV for you to celebrate.

If you’re going to go to the racetrack keep in mind that the infield is not a good place to watch the race. You may not see any horses on Friday or Saturday among the massive crowds. Worst of all, it’s not cheap. With Saturday’s general admission costing around $70 and another $20 for a “Mug Club” ticket that provides all-you-can-drink beer, a day on the infield with just the bare bones minimums is a costly affair.

The bright spot is that the concert fare is outstanding.


When to go:

Whether you come on a Friday or a Saturday the earlier you can get there the better. On Saturdays, the infield crowds beginning arriving well before the sun comes up with many camping out overnight.


Where to park:

The thing to keep in mind about Pimlico is that it’s in a residential neighborhood. So as you can imagine finding parking is a bit nightmarish, especially if you happen to be a late comer.

If you’re lucky, you may be able to snag a driveway from one of the local residents who routinely rent out parking spaces during the Preakness celebration.

Also worthy of mention are the neighborhood children who will “cart” your belongings and supplies to the racetrack (for a fee) if you should happen to park a good distance away. Neighborhood food and beverage stands run by the local children are also common sights.

No matter what perspective you view it from, the Preakness celebration is a big affair and big business for everybody in the neighborhood.


The best bars:

Some of the bars to check out are the Mt. Washington Tavern, which has been known to offer its own spin on a Black-Eyed Susan for Preakness and, while the supplies last, you can even keep the commemorative glass.

America’s Best Racing hosts a free pre-Preakness party at the tavern on Wednesdays with a chance to meet the jockeys and win Preakness tickets. The party begins at 7 p.m., and the first 50 guests to RSVP via Yelp can get a free drink ticket.

If you’re looking to stay caffeinated for the race then you’ll want to fill up with coffee from the Chesapeake Bay Roasting Company. Based in Crofton, it’s been named the official coffee of Preakness.

Claddagh Pub and Mother’s Grille also offer a Preakness package including an infield general admission ticket, transportation to and from the race, and access to the pre-game brunch party at either location.

Mad River Bar & Grille offers a Preakness package for about $100 that includes a free breakfast buffet, transportation to Pimlico, and a ticket to the Infield Mug Club. The package also includes an open bar for the hour before and after Preakness. Reservations can be made by calling 410-727-2333.


Local ettiquette:

While a major event for Maryland, the city of Baltimore and the country. And while having its own unique culture, Preakness doesn’t conjure up a lot of the pompousness of the Kentucky Derby. Preakness is more laid back.

Since the Preakness attendance dropped in 2009, which coincided with an alcohol ban and a much more low-key atmosphere in the infield, the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) has strived to bring back the party scene, now focusing upon booking popular musical acts.

These days the infield concerts can feature acts such as the Counting Crows, The Fray and Annie Bosko, Lorde, Switchfoot, Eli Young Band, Sunday Best and Go Go Gadjet.

This brings to mind another very important aspect of Preakness. The weather can be very unpredictable and if rain is on the ticket expect for a very muddy infield party.


How to dress:

Depending on where you plan on being during the festivities will depend on how you’ll probably want to dress. If you’re planning to spend the day in the grandstands or on the sidelines mingling with the socialites and well-to-dos then you’ll want to go for something more casually upscale. Men often wear button-down shirts with collars, slacks and blazers. For the women it’s nothing less than a colorful sundress and a flower-filled, trendy hat.

If the infield’s your destination then dress casual and comfortable. Flip flops, sandals and open shoes are not recommended because the infield can be very muddy if it rains or has recently rained.


What to bring:

What’s still allowed in the Preakness infield is food in coolers smaller than 28 x 15 x 17″, beach blankets, suntan lotion, cellular phones, cameras (up to 35mm), camcorders, binoculars and lawn chairs. Obviously, bring some cash for the typical over-priced food and beverages. Check out our Summer Fun Festival Guide for tips on what to bring.



Make sure you bring a camera to record all of the craziness and a set of binoculars if you’re planning to watch the race. However, be advised that the view of the race is not good from the infield. Bifocals or none.


Beads, beads & more beads:

Just like the Mardi Gras in Nawlins’, beads are like gold at the Mardi Gras of Maryland so make sure you have plenty on hand.


Meeting new peple and networking:

On race day people flock to Pimlico from all over the country. But like any other event, the crowd makeup at Preakness is largely unique to the region. Therefore expect to meet people mostly from the mid Atlantic states particularly Maryland, Washington and Virginia. Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will also be on hand with people coming from as far as California and even other countries.

Business cards are good to have and you should pass them out to as many people as you can.

Where to get info:

There are many online resources to get information on Preakness. The best place to start is their official website at Also check out our complete photo gallery here.


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Related Links
complete photo gallery here
Summer Fun Festival Guide

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Author:The Man About Town

The Man About Town is an avid traveler and good time thrill seeker. A long haul trucker and the founder of, The Clique For Men network and the entire World Clique Movement, his cross country hauls were the inspiration for this website. When he's not writing or running his company, you can find him circling the globe in search of new adventures to report on.

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