If the InfieldFest is the rowdy stepchild of the Preakness Stakes, 2021 could be the year that it grows up. With just a fraction of its usual attendance, gathered in socially distanced “pods” of 8 people, the event even has a new name: Preakness Live.
It’s “the reimagined version” of InfieldFest for this year, says Jimmy Vargas, CEO of 1/ST Entertainment, an offshoot of the Preakness owner Stronach Group. “By no means has InfieldFest gone away.”
Here’s what you need to know.
There will be music
This year’s 3,000 guests will still enjoy live, young people-friendly entertainment — headliners are rapper 2 Chainz and DJ D-Nice. Past artists have included the likes of Diplo, Fetty Wap, Bruno Mars and ZZ Top. Vargas said his goal is to create “a more robust diverse lineup of artists that sort of cater to the different demographics and stakeholders.” As the times change, so must Preakness entertainment.
Stay in your cage. We mean pod.
Rather than jumble towards the front in a sweaty mess, take in the entertainment from the comfort of your own folding chair and fenced-in “pod.” Tickets are still available ($400- $800). We will warn you: based on this photo shot by Baltimore Sun photographer Jerry Jackson, the pens look a little more abattoir than Royal Ascot.
Use an app to order food to the infield
Rather than stumble around the infield in search of a hot dog, guests can use the 1/ST app to place orders for food delivery. Bottomless beer mugs are out — for now. Vargas says organizers have plans to bring it back next year in a more upscale-sounding version that involves local breweries.
Meet your virtual handicapper
The app isn’t just for food; guests can also use it to place bets on races or interact with a virtual handicapper. It all marks part of a conscious effort to integrate the horse races with the live entertainment — bridging the very literal gap between the Grandstands and the infield.
No more bikinis
In another sign that Preakness is growing up, the bikini contest is no more, having been phased out in 2018. In its place, organizers are holding a fashion show called Runway on the Rails, held on Black Eyed Susan Day, the race on the Friday before.
No more running of the urinals
That would be the great Baltimore tradition where drunken InfieldFest attendees galloped across the tops of portable toilets while onlookers pelted them with full cans of beer, and of course, filmed it for all posterity. The event was so notorious that it contributed to a decision in 2009 to ban outside booze.
And definitely no Kegasus
In 2011, two years after banning outside alcohol at Pimlico, Preakness Stakes organizers were desperate to lure attendees back to the infield. So they introduced bottomless mugs of beer and a controversial pitchman, Kegasus. “Half-man, half-horse and altogether drunk,” according to a Baltimore Sun article at the time, Kegasus urged Marylanders to “get their Preak on.”
The mythical creature “still haunts me in my dreams,” says Vargas. “I’ve seen enough Kegasus and I’ve seen rough running of the urinals to have a few sleepless nights.”