500 Festival Seeking Volunteers For Events
Writer / Seth Johnson
Photography Provided by the 500 Festival
Every year, the 500 Festival and its correlating events impact 500,000 people. With such a massive reach, the humble festival team relies heavily on help from devoted volunteers to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.
From a mini-marathon to a world-class parade, the 500 Festival executes about 50 different events each year. Of course, the point of these events is to celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500, the world’s greatest spectacle in racing.
“The 500 Festival dates back to 1957,” says Sabrina List, 500 Festival vice president of marketing and communication. “It was actually started by a group of volunteers that were involved within the community that thought, ‘Every year, we host this big race, the Indy 500. There should be more that the community should be doing in coming together and celebrating it.’”
The idea for the festival was actually prompted by a similar festival in Kentucky that was created to celebrate the Kentucky Derby, aptly named the Kentucky Derby Festival. “The Kentucky Derby Festival is an organization that’s similar to ours,” List says. “They thought, ‘Look, they do this in Kentucky. We should do something similar.’”
So in 1957, the 500 Festival was born.
“It all started with our parade, believe it or not,” List says. “They got together, and they said, ‘Alright, let’s throw a parade, and then we’ll also have a square dance.’ So that’s how it all started and it all came together, with a parade and a square dance.”
While they may no longer have a square dance, the annual parade now draws hundreds of thousands of people to Downtown Indianapolis every year. In addition to this grand event, there are also several other affiliated 500 Festival occurrences, including a mini-marathon, Kid’s Day and much more. In total, the festival relies on 7,000 volunteers to make these events happen.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization,” List says. “Our organization was built upon volunteers. That’s how we got started, and that is not lost on us. We are a small, nimble team of full-time employees at the festival, and we could not execute what we do without the dedication and enthusiasm of our festival volunteers.”
On their website, the 500 Festival has a way you can browse all of the potential volunteer positions. “You can see every single job, the time requirement for it and the description of what’s involved with it,” List says.
Over the years, they’ve had all kinds of volunteers rave about their experience working for the 500 Festival.
“We provide a really positive volunteer experience, and we have a really, really high volunteer retention rate, along with pretty good word of mouth,” List says. “About 92 percent of our volunteers say that they would recommend the volunteer program to family or friends.”
Volunteers don’t leave empty-handed either. In fact, they receive a slew of fantastic, one-of-a-kind benefits for their work.
“You get pretty good perks for volunteering with us,” List adds. “You get a shirt and pin, but you also get an invitation to come to our volunteer appreciation day. That’s held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the Saturday of qualifications for the Indy 500.”
“You get two free tickets to qualifications that day,” List says. “You get free parking for qualifications that day. And, you can also sign up to do the tour of the garages and a tour of the pits. You get to have a really fun day out at the track for free, just for giving a few hours.”
For more information on how you can volunteer with this year’s 500 Festival, be sure to visit 500festival.com or call 317-927-3378.