New 500 Festival chairman bringing fresh perspective, making history

Justin Christian (WISH Photo)
Justin Christian (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A historic non-profit centered around the Greatest Spectacle in Racing has just made a historic change.

The 500 Festival announced its board of directors for the 2016-2017 year and the new chairman is bringing much more than fresh ideas to the table.

Justin Christian, a successful entrepreneur who started an IT recruiting firm, has been on the board for six years.

Now he’s taking the lead seat at the table as the chairman. And while he respects his predecessors, he’s hoping to connect with the community in ways they might not have been able to in the past.

“Just knowing that my name could be associated with some of the folks that have been so important to the community of Indianapolis is obviously an honor,” he said.

Christian recognizes the importance and the impact of all the events centered around the festival from the Mini Marathon in which he says he’s been a volunteer, to the Mini Mini race for the kids.

“I can remember my daughters actually participating in this event of the last few years. It just is one that is special to me personally,” he said.

Christian feels connecting with central Indiana’s youth is an integral part of the 500 Festival’s mission.

“There’s been a big transition to really being really kid focused,” he said. “Really providing a lot of programs for the community that focus on kids being physically fit and being educated as to the various aspects of health and the education program where we educate kids about technical aspects of the 500. There’s a lot of math and lot of technology and a lot of R&D that goes into what happens out at the track.”

But with his presence as the board of director’s first African American chairman, he hopes to bridge other gaps in the community.

“If me being in this role as an African American can just be another vehicle that we can to use broaden the scope of people we can connect with, I think that will be a wonderful thing,” he said.

That fresh perspective is one of many reasons he was chosen to take the lead seat at the table.

“He really carries that long tradition of someone who cares about his community and really cares about all parts of that community and how we can have any kind of positive impact on them,” said Bob Bryant, President and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We have to say, ‘how are those events and programs relevant, how can we extend them, and how do we be very diligent and purposeful about how we do that?’ And I think Justin’s certainly gonna be a big part of how we look at that and how we continue to do that.”

Christian’s vision is clearly set on the future but he promises to not forget the past.

“I’m just excited to be in the role and I just want to make sure I can continue to contribute as the various chairs have done in years past,” Christian said.