In the Preakness pack: Lindsey Vonn, Chris Christie, 'Duck Dynasty'

For The Baltimore Sun
Preakness brings people together. By which we mean Chris Christie, Lindsey Vonn and 'Duck Dynasty' dudes.

For folks who hoped for a glimpse — and maybe even a selfie — with any of the famous humans at Preakness, once again the Under Armour tent in the Corporate Village was celebrity central.

Mingling inside the air-conditioned tent and occasionally popping outside to the delight of fans were a myriad of sports figures, including the likes of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, football analyst Herman "Herm" Edwards, University of Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey and University of Maryland basketball coaches Gary Williams (former) and Mark Turgeon (current).

It was no surprise that UA pitchman Tom Brady — who had been a guest previously — and wife Gisele Bundchen were no-shows this year. However, despite recent news about her breakup with Tiger Woods, skier Lindsey Vonn did attend, posing for photos — though declining interviews — as she virtually glowed in a navy maxi-dress with back and side cutouts.

Guests outside the UA tent weren't the only ones who were star-struck. Some of the celebs inside were also agog.

"It is unbelievable. This crowd is insane. Everyone looks so beautiful. It's an experience I never imagined and I'm so happy I got to come," said Eva Shockey, professional hunter, Outdoor Channel television personality and Preakness first-timer.

It was also a first for Jep Robertson and Justin Martin, whose "Duck Dynasty" co-star Willie Robertson had been a guest in the Under Armour tent last year.

"It's awesome. We've got horse racing in Louisiana, but nothing like this. … Willie told us about everything that was going on around here," said Martin.

"But he just didn't tell us the winning numbers," said Robertson, with a laugh.

Meanwhile, this was the fourth Preakness for ESPN/ABC sports commentator Jesse Palmer.

"I've got to say, of all the different events we go to around the country, this is one of the most top-notch ones. Every detail is accounted for," he said.

For Palmer, the day's humidity actually provided a counterbalance to the athletic wear company's hospitality.

"They feed us extremely well throughout the entire weekend. So you sweat it out here and you don't feel guilty when you go home," he said.

The day's temperatures also provided a certain welcome-home feeling to former Towson University President Bob Caret, who is returning to the state as the new chancellor of the University System of Maryland after five years heading up the university system in Massachusetts.

"It's so Maryland-like. It's got the crab cakes, and you've got the whole Maryland scene, and you've got the Maryland humidity," he said, with a chuckle.

Most of the other recognizable faces strolling the corporate village seemed to be from the world of politics. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Sen. Ben Cardin, and former Gov. Parris Glendening all made the rounds, as did Gov. Larry Hogan.

"We're showing off the best of Baltimore and the best of Maryland. We have 125,000 people, and the eyes of the nation are watching and I think it's a great thing for the state and the city," said Hogan, alluding to the unrest in the city related to Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old who died April 19 after injuries sustained in police custody.

The Republican governor may also have given Under Armour chief Kevin Plank some competition as a host. He accompanied New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely aspirant for the Republican presidential nomination — and a magnet for crowds everywhere he went.

"We've wanted to come to this for a long time. My friend Governor Hogan invited me down to Baltimore," he said. "I was really anxious to see the race and meet all the people."

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