The Magic of May  |  The Illumination of Indianapolis

We wanted to shine a light on this city in the month of May, and we did.

The illumination began with a flip. Not the flip of a switch, but the flip of a bike. 

This is the story of May 2018.


(May 2) On the second day of the month, 33 bright orange Chevy Camaro Festival cars – like 33 solar flares on wheels – line Meridian Street just south of Monument Circle. They carry 33 Board Members, emerging from the driver’s seats like the green flag wavers of May, as if the celebration wouldn’t start until they allowed it. Alongside some of Indy’s most recognizable faces, we welcome the greatest month in any city on Earth with Kickoff to May. Then, the flip of a bike… lights, camera, action.

(May 3-5) The ensuing three days shine a light on runners, walkers, and the entire city as thousands join in the nation’s premier half marathon; the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. This thing we call the Indy Mini is not miniature, but magnificent. Runners like Meb Keflezighi, Alexi Pappas, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers compete, watch, and motivate. More than 50,000+ participants, volunteers, spectators, and community members come together for The Greatest Spectacle in Running.

This course acts as a 13.1-mile conduit from our city’s downtown to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back, each participant a signal in an electrical current. Runner by runner and walker by walker, we send them out to collect the magic of race day at IMS. They bring that magic back to Indy via the scuffs on their shoes, the brick dust on their lips, and the memories of May’s opening weekend. Crossing the finish line is magical, but it’s only the beginning.

(May 12) The sunlight shifts from a morning distance race to a full-family afternoon celebration in May’s second weekend at the Salesforce & JPMorgan Chase 500 Festival Kids’ Day. From rock walls and dance parties to obstacle courses and face painting, the light of May is brightest and purest in the joy and laughter among Indy’s youth. The kids even take to the streets for a little racing of their own in the Rookie Run. It’s an Indy Mini small enough for them to experience their own magic while parents are beaming with pride and the flashes of their cameras illuminate downtown.

(May 19) The weekend before the race means cars are on the track, and there’s more magic radiating from the Speedway; more magic for us to capture. In one of the most time-honored Festival traditions, formerly known as the Mayor’s Breakfast, we welcome race fans along with racing icons, Indiana’s mayors, and the 33 Princesses in the 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by Reis-Nichols. Fittingly named Breakfast at the Brickyard, presented by Midwestern Engineers, Inc., the pre-race weekend celebrations center around our guests, as each mayor and Princess gets their own time in the spotlight before race week.

Once it’s race week, race fan or not, there’s a blinding light on Indianapolis.

(May 25) On the Friday before the excitement, before the celebrities arrive, before the drivers start their engines, this light analogy goes one step further. Rather than magnifying the brilliance of Indy, it turns to gold. The 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce, pauses and turns the focus on Indiana’s fallen soldiers and gold star families. And as we pay tribute, their sacrifices resonate with us and gleam throughout our city, and our nation, during the entire weekend.

(May 26) The day before the race, it’s the most magical and luminescent event of them all; the IPL 500 Festival Parade. Balloons, floats, bands, and celebrities carry on this 62-year tradition while all 33 drivers sit atop their solar Chevrolet carriages for all of Indianapolis to see, call out by name, and wish good luck. Some, like Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves, maybe for the final time. It’s a celebration so large, so vibrant, and so dazzling that stars of Hollywood, stars of the hardcourt, and stars of the Hoosier state become starstruck themselves. And when the Parade powers down, the show isn’t over.

On Race Eve, the light takes on different colors. In the ambiance of the Indiana Roof Ballroom at the KeyBank 500 Festival Snakepit Ball, it glows. The performances by Miri Ben-Ari and iLuminate act as laser light shows for both sight and sound. Drinks are poured. Toasts are made. May is celebrated and danced into race day.

(May 27) When we wake up on Sunday and we’re done with all that magic, we return it.

Aboard busses with Princesses, 33 Camaros, and a caravan over 50 vehicles deep, we carry it back to the Speedway just in time for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, where 350,000 are waiting.

May in Indianapolis is magical, but that magic isn’t reserved for one location, one month, or one race. It’s an energy that comes to life in all of us during May and it remains in this city all year long, waiting to be turned on.

Thank you for letting us flip the switch, Indy.

 

Sincerely,

500 Festival