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The race is on for larger crowds with bigger names


An article yesterday in The Sun about Preakness Celebration '95 incorrectly named one of the performers scheduled to appear at a country music festival at Oregon Ridge Park. The singer is Martina McBride.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A three-day country music festival in Baltimore County, a two-day jazz festival in Baltimore City and a "funky, hip MTV nightclub" on the Inner Harbor -- complete with singer Debbie Harry -- will highlight the Preakness Celebration this year, officials announced yesterday.

The expanded events May 12-20, aimed at attracting more out-of-towners, lead up to the 120th running of the Preakness Stakes May 20 at Pimlico Race Course, the second event in thoroughbred horse racing's Triple Crown.

Country artists Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, Martha McBride and Doug Stone headline events May 12-14 at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. Jazz players Branford Marsalis, Dr. John, Tom Scott and David Benoit highlight the May 13-14 jazz event at Rash Field. Both music events will cost $10 daily for festival seating, with limited reserved seats available at an as-yet-unannounced higher price.

Ms. Harry, former lead singer of the punk rock band Blondie, will perform May 19 in a Preakness Eve Bash that will transform a vacant harborside warehouse, at 500 Key Highway, into "Club Preakness."

The Preakness Parade is also back this year after a one-year absence -- although planned on Saturday morning, May 13, rather than the traditional Friday-night march.

And, of course, don't forget the hot-air balloons, participating in three formal ascensions and the annual nighttime balloon light-up event at Oregon Ridge Park.

"We asked ourselves, how can we make this a week that people will come to Maryland and Baltimore for from all over the country?" said Donna Leonard, executive director of Preakness Celebration Inc., at a press conference announcing the celebration plans.

The answer: music by more nationally known performers. Ms. Leonard said negotiations are continuing with a "superstar," whose name could not be revealed, to also appear at the jazz fest at Rash Field.

And she said the new Preakness Eve Bash is intended to mimic "a semiformal, funky hip, MTV nightclub" event.

Also appearing at yesterday's press conference were Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Joseph A. DeFrancis, owner of the Pimlico Race Course, and Robert Staab, representing Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III.

"We're really happy about this," said Mr. Schmoke, citing, in particular, the annual Triple Crown Ball, May 18 at Stouffer Harborplace Hotel. Proceeds from the black-tie event will benefit CollegeBound, a program to help Baltimore City school graduates attend college.

Mr. Glendening, whose wife, Frances Anne, is honorary chair of the Triple Crown Ball, said last year's Preakness Celebration brought more than $25 million in revenue to the state, proving the venerable stakes event "is more than just a horse race."

Mr. DeFrancis noted that the Pimlico Race Course is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and Preakness sponsor, the Maryland Jockey Club, its 252d anniversary, making it the oldest sporting corporation in the nation.

Here are the key events of Preakness Celebration '95:

* Continental Airlines Country Music BalloonFest, May 12-14, Oregon Ridge Park. Events include a balloon ascension and a concert by Sammy Kershaw May 12 (5 p.m.-9 p.m.); music performances, balloon demonstrations and the Fifth Annual Crown Central Petroleum BalloonGlow May 13 (noon-9 p.m.); and a Mother's Day Flight of Fantasy balloon ascension May 14 (at 6:30 a.m.), and more country concerts and balloon demonstrations (noon-7 p.m.).

* Bud Light Nights, May 12-19, in Baltimore's Water Street area.

* First National Bank Hot Air Balloon Race, May 13 (6:30 a.m.), Druid Hill Park, with more than 50 balloons expected.

* 22d Annual Preakness Parade, May 13 (10 a.m.), on Charles Street from Mount Vernon neighborhood south to Pratt Street.

* U.S. Healthcare Preakness SoundTrack jazz festival, May 13-14 (noon-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-7 p.m. Sunday), at Rash Field. Performer schedules are to be announced.

* Triple Crown Ball, sponsored by NationsBank, May 18 (7:30 p.m.) at Stouffer Harborplace Hotel.

* Preakness Eve Bash, featuring Ms. Harry, May 19 (8 p.m.) at "Club Preakness."

* 120th Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Race Course, May 20 (gates open at 8:30 a.m.).

For more information on the events, call (410) 837-3030.

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