500 Festival Parade celebrates 60 years

(Provided Photo/Gerald Wash)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Since the very first race in 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has become steeped in rich tradition. One tradition, the 500 Festival Parade, took place for the first time in 1957. It’s always held the Saturday before the race.

“The thing that really intrigued me was the drivers going down the parade route, seeing the pace cars and the excitement.,” long-time volunteer Al Wurster said. “Each year the floats get bigger and better.”

“From the time the cannon or the warning bomb goes off to indicate to everybody the parade is about to start, it’s exciting. It’s exciting to walk along with one of the pace cars and just look at the folks and everybody’s having a good time,” 500 Festival Parade volunteer John Hulen said.

For 60 years the 500 Festival Parade has been celebrating the Indianapolis community and the race at the heart of it all.

“We go to the race every year. I’ve gone since 1951 and this seemed like the best support activity, community activity that went right along with the Indianapolis 500,” Hulen said.

He’s been a 500 Festival volunteer since 1971.

“At this point in time, we want to stay involved,” Hulen said, including his wife in the equation.

He’s just one of thousands of volunteers like Wurster, who have a deep-seeded love for May in Indiana.

“All the people, the excitement, the energy coming together through the month of May is pretty phenomenal,” Wurster.

It’s the volunteers who get the parade rolling each and every year, but it’s the bands, floats and the drivers that bring out the fans.

Indianapolis Power and Light is the only organization that has had a float in the parade every year.

“For us we’ve been there since the inception. We realize how exciting this event is for our city,” said Brandi Davis-Handy of IPL.

What was just recently only a sketch, is now being carved, welded and put together inside Expo Design. IPL’s theme for 2016 is ‘Powering the Celebration.’

“I don’t think people realize really what goes on behind-the-scenes in making this special day happen,” Davis-Handy said.

This year record attendance is sure to elevate the already exciting event that serves as the sidekick to only ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.

“Just the sheer volume that we’re going to see this year compared to year’s past is really exciting,” Wurster said. “The pomp and circumstance, the energy and the enthusiasm has really been something that has transcended time.”

One special thing happening at the parade this year, other organizations celebrating 100 years will be honored, such as the Central Indiana Community Foundation and American Red Cross.

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