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Two sides of the same track

"You can always tell by the sound of the city trucks in the area that Preakness is approaching," says Polly Warren, president of the Pimlico Goodneighbor Association Inc. and area resident for 31 years.

On the third Saturday of each May, the horse racing world’s attention is focused on the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Every year at the Preakness over 100,000 people gather to participate gamble, or just watch the race. Over 75, 000 alone gather in the infield between the stands and the track to just watch and party. The crowds are considerable. While some people might be opposed to the large crowds that gather in their neighborhood, Warren says she loves them. Warren delights in the camaraderie that comes to the area when it’s Preakness time; she just wishes that there were more Preakness celebrations in Pimlico –the actual area where the Preakness is held.

In the weeks preceding the horse race the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and other local sponsors help fund the Preakness Celebration. As part of the Preakness Celebration there is the Preakness parade, the Preakness Balloon festival, the Preakness 5-K (a run for humans, many smaller Preakness events like the Preakness Crab Derby, and several events for kids like the Preakness Sea Monster Stakes. But of the two dozen events scheduled to celebrate the Preakness only one happens in the Pimlico area… the Preakness horse race.

Perhaps in past years more events would have been held in the Pimlico area, but in recent decades the area has succumbed to the plague of crime that has hit many urban locales.

"None of the crime (in the area) is related to the race track," Warren is quick to point out. "No crimes related to gambling debt, etc." She remembers that when she moved there Pimlico was "a utopia for most black people," a serene quiet well-kept area. It was a time when nicer areas were not only unaffordable, but also not welcoming to black families. A mostly Jewish area in the late 1960s, Pimlico is now mostly African-American.

Warren has been to the race course several times during recent years and even let her sons, when they were young years ago, park cars on their property for Preakness-goers looking for affordable parking. "Parking can go as high as $15 to $20" at parking lots during Preakness, says Irma McDuffie, a neighbor who has been to the racecourse only once in her 31 years of living in Pimlico.

Despite their different views, both women would recommend others to move to the area. McDuffie would like to see "more homeowners" –who tend to take better care of their property than renters– who seem to make the area less desirable to live in. "The area is still very serene." Warren says, "Sometimes it is so quiet on the weekends that we still get a chance to see all the pretty birds and occasionally a wild deer and wild rabbit." If you add the nearby horses that run at Pimlico racecourse, you have a modern forest of animals right in the middle of Baltimore.

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