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Indy 500 Traditions: Winner's Wreath Celebrates 60th Anniversary

Featured Image: Jim Rathmann celebrates with his family in Victory Circle after winning the 1960 Indianapolis 500. Around Rathmann's right arm is the very first winner's wreath given to the winner of the 500-Mile race. Also, to Rathmann's left in the black and white stripped shirt is the very first 500 Festival Queen to join the "500" winner in Victory Lane. Now called the 500 Festival Princess, they have joined the Victory Circle celebration every year since.


Long used in international Grand Prix racing, the winner’s wreath at Indianapolis appears to have debuted in 1960 when a wreath featuring several exotic-looking dark-yellow and brown flowers was placed on the shoulders of that year’s “500” winner, Jim Rathmann.

Underwritten by BorgWarner Corporation, the wreaths were the creation of William J. “Bill” Cronin, a longtime Indianapolis florist who was a one-time consultant for the parades of the Rose Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the 500 Festival. He died in 1989.

His widow, Pat, was the lady who for many years was the charming hostess who ran the Pace Car hospitality room for the press and visiting dignitaries on the ground floor of the Master Control Tower.

For the last many years, the wreath has featured 33 ivory-colored Cymbidium orchids with burgundy tips, plus 33 miniature checkered flags, intertwined with red, white and blue ribbons.

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