Recapping the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix
The first thing is the sound.
The moment I stepped off of the Light Rail Sunday afternoon I felt it. Felt — not just heard. It isn’t like any other sound if, as was my case, you’ve never been to a live race before. It’s loud, sure, but that’s not the thing. It envelops you.
I crossed a bridge over the track — with cars from the Indy Lights series running below — and headed to the race grounds near the Convention Center and Eutaw Street. There I found food, drink, merchandise trailers, stages for entertainment, and general mingling. It was weird to see such a normally traffic-choked area of downtown cordoned off for a festival scene. Weird, but good.
And that may be the best way to describe the whole of the Baltimore Grand Prix experience: weird but good, where “weird” in this case is not at all a bad thing. “Weird” meaning different, unexpected, and surprising.
So many people in attendance. Way more than I thought I’d see. And all different kinds, as well. I saw young and old, white and black and brown, male and female. Plenty of each. Mst importantly, they all seemed to be having a genuinely good time. I didn’t see any fights or any standoffs. I didn’t really see anything negative. It was like a classic Baltimore street festival writ large, albeit with far more corporate sponsorship.
So much ink — both digital and actual — was spent over the past few months debating whether or not this event was “good” for the city. Whether or not the money spent to host it was worthwhile in light of this city’s many needs and whether or not the inconvenience of closing the roads was worth it. This being an election year, plenty of folks lined up to take sides.
I can only say this: having been there, amongst the crowd, this was definitely a good thing.
I’m not alone in that assessment. John Oreovicz at ESPN gushed about the event, concluding that:
For three decades, street races from the Meadowlands to Miami have been jockeying to call themselves the “Long Beach of the East.”
And in the Baltimore Grand Prix, it looks like INDYCAR finally found one that deserves that crown.
Whether or not the BGP ends up being a long-term Baltimore tradition remains an open question. We don’t even definitively know if it will return next year. I hope it does.
(Note: the video above is admittedly nothing special but I think it provides at least a little bit of a window into the feeling of “being there” for folks who couldn’t be. Turn up your speakers for maximum impact.)