When you live in Indiana, the month of May features one very big event: the Indianapolis 500. Life during this time of the year revolves around the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It's so big, road construction calendars all around Indianapolis are structured around the incoming traffic for the race.
It's an incredible event, and the 500 Festival plans dozens of activities with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate it and get fans involved. It really kicks off with the Mini-Marathon on the first Saturday in May -- the largest Mini in the U.S. -- which deserves attention all by itself.
Six years ago, I earned the opportunity to be involved with the festivities as a 500 Festival Princess. Thirty-three of us (the same number of cars in the starting lineup of the race) represented Indianapolis and Indiana at all of the events leading up to the race, and it was an unforgettable experience!
Today officially kicks off both Memorial Day Weekend and Race Weekend. This year's race is especially worth paying attention to, because it's the 100th anniversary of the very first Indianapolis 500-mile Race. The Indy 500 is often listed as one of those things you MUST do before you die, and I agree!
If you're new to the festivities, you can fill your long weekend with race activities. Here's what you can expect to find (with some of my photos from 2005 to help illustrate!).
On the Friday morning before Sunday's race, a memorial service is held on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis. It concludes with a ceremonial flyover that is sure to leave goosebumps on everyone's arms.
500 Festival Parade. All 33 drivers can be seen in the parade, in starting order, and it's bigger than ever this year, with 300,000 people expected to come and see it. (Can you picture what 300,000 people looks like?) Anderson Cooper is this year's Grand Marshall, and local mascot-celebrity Butler Blue II will be a featured honoree in the parade.
more than 100 veterans of the Indianapolis 500 will be on hand for one big autograph event. Activities at the track on Saturday aren't often publicized, so this is really a cool opportunity.
Race day morning on Sunday starts bright and early for anyone going to the race. The race itself starts at noon ET this year, but if you want to park anywhere near the track, it means hitting the road by 9:00 a.m. -- and that may be pushing it.
My experience as a Princess -- the one time I've been to the race -- probably spoiled me for life. We met early at the Festival House and had the luxury of being chauffeured to the race in buses with a police escort.
Yeah, that's not the normal experience.
Each member of the 500 Festival's Board of Directors gets to drive a special car during the month of May, which in 2005 were yellow convertible Chevrolet SSRs.
the Pagoda. This current building was finished in 2000, but there have been several iterations of this building during the history of the Speedway. It was from the 500 Festival's third-floor suite in the Pagoda that I got to watch the race. Again, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Borg-Warner Trophy, which is housed in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum 11 months out of the year. It's not until you get next to it that you realize the sheer scale of this trophy -- it weighs 110 pounds! The winner gets a replica to keep.
The Speedway has a great YouTube channel with lots of clips from memorable Indy 500 moments over the years, if you have time to check some of it out. I'm sure they'll be adding more in the coming days.
Happy holiday weekend! How will you be celebrating?