(INDIANAPOLIS) — The pandemic not only delayed the 500 — it canceled the community events that normally lead up to it. The 500 Festival is already preparing for what the month of May might look like next year.
The Greatest Spectacle in Racing was about the only survivor of a traditional May. The pandemic meant no Mini-Marathon, no parade, no memorial service on the Circle, and so on. And even if things are returning to normal next May, it’s unlikely the coronavirus will be gone completely.
500 Festival CEO Bob Bryant says the festival expects to announce in a couple of months some
adjustments to the Mini. He says some aspects which were commonplace in years past, from the corrals to hold groups of runners before the race to the post-race party, may need to be reworked in anticipation of continuing social-distancing recommendations.
With no in-person events this year, the festival tried to salvage at least part of the spirit of May. The Mini became a virtual race, and the 500 Mile Challenge is still in progress — participants have until the end of the year to put together a total of 500 miles. Bryant says what started as a bug became a feature: those on-your-own events have allowed the Festival to include more people over a broader territory. He says those virtual events may become permanent.
The Festival will invite this year’s 500 Princesses to be part of the festival again next year alongside the new class. Bryant says the princesses have helped with outreach but have missed out on the events that would normally be part of the program. And Bryant says if the Festival parade resumes next year, the comeback from the pandemic is likely to be a theme, for both the floats and the choice of a grand marshal.