Indy 500 grows into the culture of Indiana in a century

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s only a three-hour long race, but the Indy 500 has become a month-long celebration. This weekend, the Mini Marathon kicks off the festivities.

But it wasn’t always that way.

100 years ago, the race was just a race where fans came to check out the cars and technology. But by the 1920’s, race officials took a sharp turn and started promoting the drivers more than the technology.

“People care about people,” explained Josh Boyd, Associate Professor of Purdue University’s Department of Communication. “People can be interested in daredevils and heartbreak and tragedy and triumph. And so those sorts of stories became what drew people to the 500.”

Decades later, the 500 would become more than just a weekend event. Now we have the One America 500 Festival Mini Marathon, the Princess Program, the 500 Festival Parade, the Snake Pit Ball, educational programs and tours, and so many more day of traditions.

“All those sorts of things give people other anchors for the race other than just the cars or even the drivers,” said Boyd. “In that way, I think, the 500 has really been a leader in figuring out how to take a three-hour sporting event and make it have an impact on the community for a whole month.

Click here to check out the Indy 500 racing related events happening this month.

Click here to check out the Indy 500 Festival events happening this month.

Click here to check out the Indy 500 Race Day events.

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