This weekend marks the 147th Preakness Stakes – a day traditionally filled with big hats, music and the reason for the celebration: Maryland’s rich tradition of horse racing.
But this year, the Park Heights Renaissance, a nonprofit associated with restoring the Park Heights community surrounding the Pimlico Race Course, will turn our attention to another important part of that history.
A companion festival the same day of the Preakness, on Saturday, May 21, will honor the legacy of African Americans as part of the state’s equestrian history.
The George “Spider” Anderson Preakness Music and Arts Festival pays tribute to the first African American jockey to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown in 1889.
Mansur Abdul-Malik, vice president of development at NHP Foundation, says the festival was one of many pop-up events Park Heights Renaissance organized to bring activity to the neighborhood before several development projects get underway.
His not-for-profit real estate organization is working with Park Heights Renaissance to maintain a 17-acre portion of the community they are revitalizing in partnership with Baltimore City.
“One of the things that we wanted to make sure that we highlighted was the fact that there should be a festival in Park Heights that celebrates not only the Preakness but the history of people of color in the racing industry and celebrating our Baltimore heritage,” Abdul-Malik says.
Park Heights has historically been a community with rich ethnic diversity, and as a lifelong Baltimorean, Abdul-Malik says he can’t recall ever seeing a well-promoted festival dedicated specifically to the connection between Black history and horse racing.
Thanks to a 2019 agreement, The Stronach Group—owners of the Preakness, Pimlico and The Maryland Jockey Club—are also committed to remaining in Baltimore and restoring its neighboring communities.
This event will be the first Preakness-related festival not sponsored by the Preakness and will include live music, arts and crafts, live streaming of the races and food trucks for all ages.
A number of partners with close ties to horse racing and the Black equestrian community are sponsoring the festival, including the Maryland Thoroughbred Breeders Association, the Maryland Horse Industry Board and the Maryland Horse Council, according to a news release from City Ranch.
Also a partner for the festival, the Black-led City Ranch is a nonprofit dedicated to reintroducing horsemanship to urban youth since 2007. It serves Baltimore City and surrounding counties with lessons, workshops, therapy riding and horse care. The organization also sponsors the all-Black Charm City Polo Club.
“We bring horses to neighborhood events so children and their families have an opportunity to meet these gentle and sensitive creatures,” says CEO Ahesahmahk Dahn in the news release.
At Saturday’s festival, the organization will provide education on African American history, as well as 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, horsemanship and polo demonstrations, free pony rides and grooming from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The daylong festival is free and open to the public. It will take place between Woodland and Virginia avenues, bordered by Park Heights Avenue to the north and Homer Avenue to the west—just a few blocks from Pimlico.