First, the party. Now, the cleanup.
Pimlico Race Course, the scene Saturday of the largest crowd in Preakness history, remained a hive of activity Sunday, with hundreds of workers breaking down tents, cleaning up the infield and hauling away trash by the truckload.
"It looks like a bomb that went off," Packy Hart, the facilities director at Pimlico, said after surveying the grounds Sunday morning. "It's going to take two or three days to get it manageable."
The cleanup began Saturday night, after California Chrome won the second leg of racing's Triple Crown and an announced 123,469 revelers filed out. Hundreds of workers labored through the night, under spotlights, making the first sweep in a job that will continue through the week.
Hart said 90 percent of the garbage would be cleared by Monday afternoon, but there still would be tents to strike and golf carts to wrangle. Live racing at Pimlico is scheduled to resume Friday; the infield will have to be cleared in time for a Skrillex concert June 8.
At the center of the effort is the 300 hired last week by the Crofton-based Pritchard Sports and Entertainment Group to work the weekend: Setup on Friday, race-day service on Saturday and cleanup on Sunday.
Many of the workers are local, and return year after year. Geraldo Lopez, the Miami-based regional manager for Pritchard, said 160 from this year's crew were holdovers from last year.
They included Kane Foster and Darlene Clark, both of Baltimore and both veterans of several Preaknesses.
"It gives people who don't have jobs a chance to do something constructive and make some money," said Foster, 51. He said he pieces together a living during the year from landscaping and home improvement work, but looks forward to the third Saturday in May.
"I enjoy it," he said.
Clark does, too. But the 57-year-old grandmother said the work is hard.
"It gets nasty," she said, and described the vomit and the discarded underwear.
"People get loose," she said. "They're out for a good time — without regard to the mess they're making."
Clark said she enjoys that atmosphere — and watching the horses run: "I don't know nothing about it, but I'm screaming my head off with the rest of them."
While this year's crowd set a record, Lopez said changes in Pimlico policies on bringing coolers and backpacks into the grounds mean there wasn't as much trash as in some previous years.
After completing an initial cleanup Sunday, he said, Pritchard will wait for more tents to be removed before returning to finish the job.
For Hart and his staff at Pimlico, the race on Saturday marked the beginning of the end of a month-and-a-half-long sprint to put on the track's biggest event, with night after night of little or no sleep.
"It's an enormous job," he said. But he described the payoff: climbing to the roof and seeing 100,000 people in the infield.
"You look down and say, 'We orchestrated all that.' How cool is that?"
Clark and Foster spoke after collecting their pay for their three days' work. Clark called the minimum-wage payout "catch-up money," already earmarked for bills.
Foster gestured to his co-workers, waiting in line for their pay.
"They can't do it without us," Foster said. "You've got food service, you've got security, you've got everything else. We're bringing up the rear. We're cleaning up. We are the Preakness."
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