By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun
8:51 PM EDT, September 2, 2012
Whether it was a rooftop deck party equipped with a DJ and an elaborate brunch theme or a hotel hall transformed into a swanky viewing room, those lucky enough to have downtown digs along the Grand Prix race track entertained friends and family with private, upscale parties.
Forget the metal bleachers at the track. These parties provided breathtaking views, catered treats and offered endless libations.
The view from Melisa Herbert's downtown apartment building's rooftop deck was the perfect vantage point for her guests to watch race cars zoom past on Greene Street.
Her second annual Kegs and Eggs Grand Prix brunch attracted more than 30 guests. In addition to scrambled eggs and a self-serve keg of beer, guests munched souffles, sausage bites and other brunch staples. Mimosas, Bloody Marys and other cocktails were also served.
"Last year was so successful, we wanted to celebrate Grand Prix and get some of my closest friends together," said the 29-year-old human resources manager, who lives in the Greene House apartment building near Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium. "It's a great event and hopefully it will bring in money for the city."
The party's co-host, Sabrina Mogel was pleased that Herbert offered up her home for her friends to experience the race. Mogel, a biotech sales representative, explained that she lived in Fells Point and had no other way to watch the event.
"We have a pretty legit view of the race," she said as she pointed to the guests who lined a wooden railing watching the cars speed by. "That's how we got so many people to show. None of these people knew each other in the beginning and look at them now."
A couple blocks away, the Baltimore Convention Center became an epicenter of corporate private parties. Corridors of the center — with window views — were partitioned and transformed into party "suites" with politicians, celebrities and corporate-types as guests.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake entertained several dozen guests on the third floor, including neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and R&B singer Mario. Olympic figure skater Kimmie Meissner was also spotted in the area, according to several partygoers.
"When you do something big like this, people see how fun Baltimore can be," said Rawlings-Blake. "It helps us to earn the title as fifth coolest city in the country by Forbes Magazine."
A few blocks away on the second floor of the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel, guests and corporate clients of the Inner Harbor hotel were treated to shrimp cocktail, pistachio-crusted chicken, race-car-shaped cookies and an open bar at a special hospitality reception in the Whitehall Ballroom. There, sleek white leather couches lined the windows, which gave guests clear views of the racetrack on Light Street.
"There's a great client base in this area for this," said David Kohlasch, general manger of the hotel. "This is an opportunity to bring them to the hotel to enjoy the race. There was a big demand for it."
The hotel sold out the entire weekend, according to Kohlasch. The special gathering attracted more than 150 people, he added.
Chris O'Boyle, senior vice president of the Maryland-based company Evapco, brought his wife and two children to the Royal Sonesta party. His company is a client of the hotel, he explained.
"We're just enjoying the race," the Hanover, Pa., resident explained. The hotel has "been a gracious host. And you can't ask for a better view of the race. The race is great for Baltimore."
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