It's the end of an era—a very messy, drunk, rather disgusting era.
The Maryland Jockey Club announced yesterday that they will no longer allow fans to bring their own alcoholic beverages into the infield on Preakness Day. Fans will be able to buy 16 oz. beers for $3.50, and the organizers will add a concert to the proceedings, featuring ZZ Top, Buckcherry, and a local band to be named later. For the first time in years, organizers will not raise infield ticket prices from last year when they were $50.
The change, frankly, was inevitable. Having been on the Pimlico infield for about 10 of the last 15 Preakness Days (my first Preakness infield ticket, purchased as a high school senior in 1992 was, I think, $16), I know the mayhem that ensues. Fans cart in obscene amounts of alcohol—by the case—and get progressively more drunk and rowdy as the day goes on. There are lots of fights, plenty of nasty falls, and general chaos—you haven't lived until you've seen the "Running of the Port-o-Potties," pictured above (or the endless YouTube videos thereof).
Honestly, that was the charm. It was a little dangerous and a little unhinged, but it was a right-of-passage for young Baltimoreans looking to get a little crazy with their friends. The new rules will certainly change Preakness, and the grown-up side of me thinks it's probably for the best: With that many dangeous variables, it was only a matter of time before something truly tragic happened on the infield.
But I will definitely miss the colorful, surreal, hysterical spectacle that it was.