CASTS of characters will assemble all over Baltimore for family-oriented events celebrating the 116th Preakness Stakes. There will be frogs and floats, schooners and scouts, piglets and peewees and, naturally, horses and hot air balloons.
Maryland Preakness Celebration '91 can begin a family tradition -- and without much expense. Most events are free, or free with a Preakness pin.
Tomorrow's GTECH Maryland Preakness Parade promises two hours of horsing around with a patriotic flair. The parade heralds 10 days of festivities dedicated to the men and women who served in the Persian Gulf. Floats bedecked with yellow ribbons and thousands of flowers will include themes familiar to children -- "Cinderella," "Neptune's World" and "Rip Van Winkle." Marching bands and equestrian units will carry on the Preakness spirit. Giant helium balloon likenesses of Popeye and Olive Oyle, Buster the Crab, Mighty Mouse and a host of others will loom overhead. The parade will wind through downtown beginning at 7 p.m. Parents with children can avoid jockeying for a clear view by arriving at a parade sight around 6:30 p.m.
Don't stay out too late after the parade, since the First National Bank of Maryland Hot Air Balloon Competition and Children's Festival will begin at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday at Druid Hill Park. Plan to arrive at 6 a.m. to watch flight preparation. A "hare," the lead balloon, will lift off first, followed by a pack of "hound" balloons. Mixed in with traditional balloons will be Klondikes' flying polar bear, a giant Rayovac battery and a huge sneaker sponsored by Famous Flying Footwear.
The balloon ascension signals the beginning of the Children's Festival. Jugglers, clowns and zoo mascots will work the crowd of early risers. There will be a potpourri of education and fun zoo exhibits, carnival games, kite flying and a "moonbounce." The festival will continue until the zoo opens at 9 a.m. A Preakness pin is worth $1 off zoo admission all day.
Preakness Celebration '91 includes many statewide festivities, including numerous daily horse shows. For statewide information about all events, including horse shows, consult an official Preakness schedule or call 837-3030. Here are family oriented events in the Baltimore area:
* Scout Expo '91 will be Saturday at the Timonium Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Scouting's annual show to the public features many of the activities that have made scouting a favorite activity for generations. Visitors can watch Pinewood Derby Races, model rocket launches, camping and cooking demonstrations. Some troops will tote logs and ropes to make swinging bridges, swing sets and rappelling towers while the public watches. Converts can sign up for scouting at any information booth. Food concessions will be available. Phone 338-1700 for more details. Admission is $2.
* Children's Spring Festival at Montessori School in Lutherville // will be Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Montessori's festival is for children aged 3 to 7, especially those in search of just the right Mother's Day gift. There will be three craft booths where children can make hand prints, weave container or string a large bead necklace. An Irish Bag Pipe Duo, a juggling magician and African storyteller Jamal Koran will perform. Other scheduled attractions include games, a used book sale and fire and police department apparatus. Phone: 321-8555. Admission is free.
* The Preakness Piglet Stakes will be from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Harborplace Amphitheatre. See it to believe it. Piglets in jockey silks will take to the track in an inaugural Harborplace event, sponsored by 100 WGRX, Harborplace and the Gallery. Phone: 332- 4191. It's Free.
* First National Bank of Maryland Hot Air Balloon Competition will be Sunday at Oregon Ridge Park. Lift-off will be between 6:30 and 7 a.m. Though this competition is not geared specifically to children, those who missed Saturday's event will get one last chance to see balloons lift skyward. The emphasis is on skill and agility as pilots of hare balloons attempt to land precisely on sandbags dropped by a hound. Phone: 837-3030. Free with Preakness pin.
* The ninth annual Preakness High School Cheerleading Contest will be Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. Five finalist teams will vie for a state championship with cheers and gymnastic feats that have brought them to the top of their class. Phone: 332-4191. Admission is free.
* Maryland Preakness Celebration Summer Sunday Concert will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Harborplace Amphitheatre. WLIF-Lite 102, Harborplace and the Gallery invite all to bring blankets and lawn chairs and find a place under the harbor skies to take in the standard pops and classical selections offered by the Baltimore Symphonic Band. Phone: 332-4191. Free.
* Frog Frolic and Open House at the National Center for the Blind will be Tuesday at 1800 Johnson St. (Drive on Light Street 18 blocks south of Harborplace. Left on Barney Street to Johnson.) From 1 to 4 p.m., visitors will meet Mr. Braille, the center's contestant in Wednesday's Frog Hop at Fells Point, and learn how visually impaired children play chess, checkers and dominoes and other games. Braille readings and demonstrations are scheduled throughout the day. Phone: 659-9314. Free.
* AT&T; Great Schooner Race will begin at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Inner Harbor. Just how fast can tall and graceful ships, including the Clipper City, the Night Hawk and the Lady Maryland, really go? Find out as their captains race from the Inner Harbor toward Fort McHenry. The winner will get a water salute from the Baltimore City Fire Department's fireboat upon its return to the harbor around 5 p.m. Phone: 837-3030. Free.
* The Peewee Preakness will be Wednesday at Rash Field from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children qualify for entry into this hobby horse race. Cheers will be provided by clowns, mascots and, of course, parents. Phone: 837-4636. Free.
* Wednesday find out about Horse Sports Through Time at Show Horse Arena at the Timonium Fairgrounds. The show will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. Kids of today may not know that horses have a place in history apart from parades and races. This first time Preakness event will highlight centuries of horses at work in cavalry maneuvers, jousting and precision drill teams. The Maryland Horse Council will sponsor the event as a fund-raiser to send therapeutic ride teams to the International Special Olympics. Phone: 252-2100. A Preakness pin will get you in for free.
* Maryland Preakness Celebration Frog Hop will be in Fell's Point at Broadway Market Square Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. City and national fame could await any green long jumper measuring 4 inches from nose to tail. First, second and third place trophies will be awarded. The first place frog will be jetted to Calaveras County, Calif., for the annual Jumping Frog Jubilee. Baltimore City McDonalds is sponsoring the free event. Humans of any age may enter a frog. Phone: 396-9177.
* Spend lunch time with the Orioles May 17 starting at 12 at the Harborplace Amphitheatre. Brady Anderson, Mike Devereaux, Leo Gomez and WBAL announcer Ken Levine will work the lunch-time crowd. These players are tentatively scheduled, with possible pinch-hit appearances by other players.
* Highlandtown Merchant's Association's Preakness Fun Festival will be May 19 from noon to 7 p.m. Thirteen blocks of Highlandtown (Eastern to Clinton to Haven and Eastern)????? will barely contain it all -- rides and games, an old fashioned mid-way, ethnic food, crafts, flea markets, and community education booths. Three stages of live music will feature the Legendary Orioles Musical Band, Scott Cunningham's Rhumba Club and Moon August.
* Maryland Preakness Celebration Sunday Concert Series will wind up Preakness family festivities on a happy note May 19. The Elkridge Chapter of the Sweet Adelines will perform at the Harborplace Amphitheatre from 7 to 8:30 p.m. WLIF-Lite 102, Harborplace and the Gallery are the sponsors of the free concert. Phone: 332-4191.
The pin that gets you in
A small lapel pin decorated with three black-eyed susans is the ticket to Preakness fun throughout May.
No, it won't get you in free to the Preakness race at Pimlico May 18, but it does offer free or discounted admission to many of the related events.
A pin is $2, and may be purchased at Crown Gasoline stations, Royal Farm Stores, Rite Aid stores, Pimlico and Laurel race courses, Memorial Stadium during Orioles games, and at selected Maryland Preakness Celebration '91 events. The tax-deductible contribution goes to Campaign for Our Children, a charity aimed at reducing child pregnancy through abstinence education.
The pin comes attached to an entry form for Maryland Preakness Celebration Sweepstakes, offering more than $10,000 in cash and prizes. A drawing will be held May 27 at Pimlico for trips to Holland, to Orlando, Fla., to local getaways and for Orioles and Preakness box seats. Winners need not be present to win, but have their entry blanks must be mailed in and processed by May 27. For more about Preakness events and the Preakness pin, call 837-3030.