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2021 Community Programs Strengthen Deep Connection between Indy 500, Fans

“We called an audible!”

That was the last sentence of a tweet Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles sent Saturday, Aug. 22 – the day before the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Boles was referencing the Speedway 33 “parade” that was coming to the Town of Speedway in honor of its residents and longtime ticketholders. The 33 drivers in the starting field were moments away from riding down Main Street before making surprise visits to longtime Indy 500 ticketholders in the neighborhoods near the racetrack.

It was one of the most special and impactful activations the racetrack has ever done.

Brenda Hamm, a longtime Speedway resident who has been to 16 “500s” was visited by last year’s pole sitter Marco Andretti and his legendary grandfather, 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, in a moment she will never forget.

“Utter surprise and excitement,” Hamm said after screaming at the sight of the Andretti’s in her front yard when she opened the door. “I’ve lived here more than 30 years, parked cars and made breakfasts for people on Race Morning, but this…”

The last sentence of that tweet sent at 10:42 a.m. was more than a reference to a change of plans. It was symbolic of how the connection between IMS and its race fans has changed over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That day, IMS issued a decree from Boles for fans to extend their Indianapolis 500 streaks. That, too, was a symbolic gesture to the legions of fans who were unable to attend the spectator-less event on Aug. 23. But it was also a way for the Speedway to express its deepest gratitude and appreciation to the race fans who have stuck by the Speedway during these challenging times.

This year, the Speedway is applying what it learned last year to further that connection and show its appreciation to race fans. 2020’s Speedway 33 has evolved into the “500 Spectacle of Homes,” a fun way for race fans to show their anticipation and excitement for the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 30.

Race fans can celebrate the spirit of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” all May long by decorating their yard or home in race-themed fashion, hosting a safe and fun Porch Party and showing off that amazing civic pride that runs deep with all of us Hoosiers.

Porch Parties are an incredibly popular part of the Indy 500 celebration and serve as a great example of the community spirit this city has for the Indianapolis 500. In collaboration with the Harrison Center for the Arts, this simple and creative way for neighbors to connect safely, build local communities and celebrate the spirit of the “500” continues in a new way as “porching” becomes an integral part of the “500 Spectacle of Homes.”

This month-long celebration culminates Saturday, May 29 with a “reverse parade” similar to what race fans experienced last year with Speedway 33. All 33 drivers competing in the Indianapolis 500 will drive throughout Indianapolis to check out race fans’ incredibly designed homes. The caravan will start in the Town of Speedway before heading to downtown Indianapolis and then dispersing through the city’s various neighborhoods.

The mission of the “500 Spectacle of Homes” is to leverage the excitement, tradition and pageantry of the Indianapolis 500 and the AES 500 Festival Parade, which will not be held in 2021, to create a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and to bring local neighborhoods together.

It wasn’t even May yet when that mission was accomplished.

After the “500 Spectacle of Homes” was announced March 30, local communities were already at work embodying the spirit of this race, including 17-year-old Luke Hern.

Hern, a junior at Cathedral High School, pulled his Herron-Morton Place neighborhood together to decorate his home like a float he normally sees in the AES 500 Festival Parade. Inspired by the bright colors of summer days, Hern used yellows, blues, beach chairs and checkered flags to set a racing-themed beach scene in Central Indianapolis.

“I just love how with the Indy 500, and even March Madness earlier this year, Indianapolis has found ways to overcome and bring people together,” Hern said. “Obviously with the Indy 500, it’s something that Hoosiers, people around the Midwest and around the world look forward to every year. It’s really amazing to see that Indianapolis and Indiana, even though it doesn’t have the bright beaches, it doesn’t have the big mountains, but Hoosiers find a way to bring people to the state.”

Hern loves painting and focuses on that and pastel-and-pencil drawings in his art classes at Cathedral. He said he used this opportunity to express his talents but also to encourage the younger kids in his neighborhood to join in on the fun.

“They’ve really helped the community grow,” he said. “Everybody knows all the neighborhood kids around here. Herron-Morton and Central Indianapolis is a really beautiful community to grow up in. I remember when I was their age and how older kids helped find fun ways for us to interact, so it’s nice getting them involved. It was really fun to have the kids help out and inspire other people to participate in the parade.”

The last year has challenged everyone in ways that couldn’t have been predicted, and in ways that are unforgettable. But through it all, one lesson everyone has learned is that IMS has the greatest race fans in the world.

Even though no fans were able to attend last year’s Indy 500, and this year’s Race Day is capped at 40 percent of capacity and 135,000 spectators, those in the city of Indianapolis, residents of Central Indiana, Hoosiers across the state and race fans around the world have shown that Indy isn’t Indy without its fans.

The one thing 2020 reconfirmed is that the Indy 500 has the greatest fans in the world, and the connection between fans and the Racing Capital of the World is only going to continue to grow.

Because after all, we called an audible.

Be sure to join the Porch Party fun every Friday in May, and learn more about the “500 Spectacle of Homes” by visiting!

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