Good times always roll on the Preakness infield - NBC Sports

Good times always roll on the Preakness infield
The 'other' action at Pimlico is about drinking, eating, laughing ... and Kegasus!
AP
Steve Scrimer runs across the top of the portable toilets in the infield as people throw beer cans at him before the 133rd Preakness Stakes on May 17, 2008.
May 16, 2012, 3:05 pm

The party plans on being so big, even Kegasus needs an assistant! Kegasus, of course, is the half-man, half-horse marketing leader and unofficial party director of InfieldFEST on Preakness Day. Dubbed as the "Lord and Protector of the Infield", this character was introduced in 2011 to add some spark to a declining attendance in the once-booming infield at storied Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

The marketing campaign has worked to this point.

"Being a professional party centaur isn't all it's cracked up to be," Kegasus recently tweeted to his followers. "Kidding. It's amazing."

Last year, Preakness day attendance was back up to six figures, 107,398, marking the second straight year of positive results. The 2008 Preakness party ended with approximately 300 folks hospitalized, more than 100 ejections as well as a handful of arrests, and it prompted Pimlico officials to forbid patrons from bringing in their own items, most notably, beer.

Attendance dropped 40 percent following the new, stricter rules, with only 77,850 people walking through the gates for the 2009 renewal of the second leg of the American Triple Crown.

Image:
/ AP
In this illustration released Wednesday, March 30, 2011, by the The Maryland Jockey Club, the 2011 Preakness InfieldFest campaign, ?The Legend of Kegasus," image is shown. Preakness organizers have unveiled a marketing campaign for this year's second leg of the Triple Crown based on a mascot named Kegasus _ a half-man, half-horse centaur. The 136th running of the $1 million PreaknessAE Stakes (Grade I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, is May 21 at Pimlico Race Course. (AP Photo/The Maryland Jockey Club)

Don't be surprised to see a record crowd Saturday.

This year, Pimlico has introduced UniCarl, a half-man, half-unicorn mascot to help promote the limelight as the proclaimed "personal assistant and trainer" for Kegasus. "It takes some of the pressure off Kegasus. It's like the Lone Ranger and Tonto." said Tom Chukas, Maryland Jockey Club President and COO.

The music for the 2012 party is led by multi-platinum rapper Wiz Khalifa and Grammy Award winners Maroon 5, both high-profile names in the recording industry that should only bolster the admission revenue, especially with the 21-35 demographic. The Beer Garden J„germeister Stage welcomes British rockers The Darkness; Nashville-based country band Little Big Town; and regional favorites Mr. Greengenes in an effort to provide a little something for everyone.

In addition to the music and "Mug Club", a bikini contest, Olympic beach volleyball and corn-hole competitions will be held on the infield lawn, giving nearly everyone an outlet to something other than alcohol poisoning, which was top dog for many years at "The Peoples Party".

The Flavors of Maryland will feature vendors offering eats such as barbecue, crab cakes, lobster and grill fare, among others foods, a much improved food venue compared to years past.

The infield atmosphere is likely not suitable for children, nor for the faint of heart. It's a marathon not a sprint in the infield, with an early start and late finish, mixed with plenty of drinking in the middle. A great deal of the crowd is well inebriated hours before the actual running of the Preakness. But it was relatively safe last year, with no arrests or significant injuries.

Give the Maryland Racing Club and Pimlico a lot of credit - things were getting out of hand a few years back, but their perseverance and innovation has won back a ton of fans. It's the best of both worlds now with excellent entertainment at a reasonable price.

The Preakness is like nothing else, featuring the ultimate party scene in the infield and some of the world's greatest equine athletes competing on the other side of the fence.

We have a hunch the infield bettors will relate to this year's Derby winner - I'll Have Another!