The 500 Festival was thrilled to welcome its new vice president of strategic partnerships, Pat Merna, to the team in late October. Pat comes to the Festival from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series, and is clearly no stranger to the Indy 500 or the celebration of the month of May. To introduce our friends, volunteers, community leaders and partners to Pat, we threw him a few questions to get to know him a little bit better!


What’s your favorite indianapolis 500 memory?

I’ve only been to and worked the last six Indy 500’s, so not a long list like a lot of longtime fans. Tough choice as the 100th Running was one of them, but I’ll have to go with my first one which was 2012 with Dario Franchitti winning his 3rd and narrowly defeating Takuma Sato on the last lap when he spun out in turn 1! I still remember how amazing it was being down in front of the grid for pre-race and seeing how the stands went from empty to full in what seemed like minutes!


What are you most looking forward to at the 500 festival?

What I’m most looking forward to at the 500 Festival is the great community programs we are involved in and the celebration of the Indianapolis 500! I must admit I didn’t realize the full scale of all the good the Festival does until I started learning the story. It’s amazing how comprehensive the programs are with youth fitness and education, community impact with multiple events, and corporate wellness! Not only am I anxious for the day to day of being part of the team, but the long term success of the Festival!


Who is / was your greatest role model?

I’d have to go with my step-father who passed away as my role model. He taught me not only great work ethic teachings, but life skills that balance the important things that matter like family, happiness, and laughter!


Who is your favorite sport? Team? indycar driver?

Favorite sports team would have to be Syracuse Orange basketball. Although I worked for and love University of New Mexico basketball and the Memphis Grizzlies, I spent a lot of my growing up in upstate New York where Orange hoops gets you though the brutal winters! As far as racing, I’m always an INDYCAR fan so I pull for all the drivers and teams as I enjoy the amazing racing that it is!


What is your favorite movie or book?

One of my favorite books for natural beauty is Gretel Ehrlich’s ‘The Solace of Open Spaces’ about Wyoming. For inspirational reading, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s ‘Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.’ For movies, anything comedy and Holiday themed!


Join the 500 Festival in welcoming Pat, and be sure to say hello at the next 500 Festival event!