Officials announced Friday that the start of the Maryland Preakness Celebration Parade has been moved up 15 minutes, to 6:15 p.m. on Friday, May 15. A story in today's Sun Magazine lists the previous start time.

The Sun regrets the error.

ONE AND A HALF HOURS OF enchantment. That's the definition of Baltimore's annual Preakness parade.

Giving us spectators those enchanting 90 minutes has been the work -- since early 1991 -- of numerous paid and volunteer workers.

"Our goal is not only to make [the Preakness parade] a national event, but to make it an international event as well," says Valerie Lagauskas, parade producer for the past three years, and president and founder of Synergistic Concepts Inc., a special-events production company.

Since last fall, Ms. Lagauskas has reviewed the videos of more than two dozen marching bands, helped design floats, selected balloons and mailed hundreds of letters inviting people and organizations to participate in the parade.

The theme of this year's parade is spring and reawakening. The plan is to turn it into the East Coast's first floral parade, following in the footsteps of Pasadena, Calif.'s, Tournament of Roses.

The floats were designed and built by Hargrove Inc., a Lanham-based company that was also responsible for the floats in the Orioles Opening Week Parade.

Employees at Kemp Balloons in Glen Burnie have also been busy this spring. For the Preakness parade, the company plans to fly Tom and Jerry, Raggedy Andy, Casper the Friendly Ghost and Droopy Dawg, as well as a new Care Bears balloon.

Music for the parade will be provided by 12 marching bands. Interested bands were asked to submit a video, which was reviewed by Ms. Lagauskas and a committee that included the director of a local marching band.

"We want them to sound good, obviously, and we tried to find bands who offer a variety of styles," Ms. Lagauskas says.

While horses have been surprisingly scarce at Preakness parades of the past, their numbers will increase this year: Eight equestrian units are expected to participate. (Members of the city Sanitation Department -- pooper-scoopers in hand -- will rush in, if needed.)

For Ms. Lagauskas, the most exciting part of the job comes about an hour before the parade steps off, when all of its participants are grouped by category, waiting to take their place in line.

"It looks like chaos, and you wonder if it will ever come together," she says. "Suddenly, it's like 'Oh, my goodness, we are really going to do this thing.' And we do."

The 20th Annual Preakness Parade kicks off Friday, May 15, at 6:30 p.m. from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Eutaw Street. It travels east to Chase Street, heads down Charles Street to Pratt Street and winds up at President Street. Call (410) 837-3030 for more information.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad