Only one of many Indianapolis events that define the city in May, the 500 Festival Memorial Service is an integral part of the 500 Festival. The Festival is a nonprofit organization that was formed to celebrate the success of the biggest event in Indianapolis sports history, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (the Indy 500). When May rolls around in the Circle City, it’s always accompanied by Indianapolis citizens firing up their grills, donning their best black and white attire, and preparing to attend all the events in Indy that commemorate the greatest spectacle in racing.
While many happenings of the 500 Festival celebrate the carefree aspects of the big day, the 500 Festival Memorial Service was created as a tribute to all those who have given their lives in defense of our country. Taking place each year on the steps on Monument Circle in downtown Indy the Friday before the race, the ceremony reminds Indianapolis citizens that the race isn’t the only thing happening in May. Race day always occurs the day before Memorial Day, an important day in American and Indianapolis history.
The 500 Festival aims to recognize both the events surrounding the race that have become such an integral part of Indianapolis culture, and those Indianapolis citizens who fought to defend their own. The service is a somber one, beginning with a tribute to the fallen Hoosiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. Speakers each year include the Indianapolis mayor, the governor of Indiana, and the Chairman of the 500 Festival. Families of the soldiers who lost their lives in the armed services are featured as well, in addition to a host of military officers. A ceremonial flyover concludes the service. Once the service is over, you may want to check out the War Memorial Museum and the Veterans Memorial Plaza, both downtown as well, in honor of this important holiday.
Besides the military men, women and families of those who lost their lives in operations like Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, guests at the event include the 500 Festival Princesses, who attend nearly every event the festival hosts. There are several other occasions where you can expect to see these 33 young women, who serve as ambassadors of the Festival during the month of May i Indy. In addition to the memorial service, two of the biggest celebrations of the Festival, the Mini-Marathon and the 500 Festival Parade, take place the weekend before the race.
If you’re interested in attending some of these happenings during the busy month of May in Indianapolis, check the 500 Festival website for more information on how to get tickets. The 500 Festival Memorial Service is free and open to the public, and downtown parking meters will be turned off the day of the service. Make sure to get there early enough to get a parking spot, and help the 500 Festival pay tribute to the fallen Hoosiers who sacrificed their lives for our country.