About the 500 Festival
The mission of the 500 Festival is to produce life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500 and foster a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.
The 500 Festival, a not-for-profit community organization, was created in 1957 to organize civic events celebrating the greatest race in the world. Over the past 60+ years, the 500 Festival has grown to become one of the largest festivals in the nation. Each year, 500,000 Hoosiers and visitors participated in festival activities throughout the month of May. Whether they were athletes running the Mini-Marathon, fourth-grade students participating in the Education Program, families enjoying the state’s largest festival for kids, or spectators being dazzled by one of the nation’s premier parades, they were there, celebrating the legacy.
No other singular sporting event in the world has a legacy like the Indianapolis 500. No other event has shaped and defined a city and state and its people like the Indianapolis 500.
For more than six decades, the 500 Festival has shown commitment and excellence by producing a wide range of programs and events to unite the community in celebration of the Indianapolis 500.
The parade was the 500 Festival’s first event back in 1957. More than 150,000 spectators lined the parade route in downtown Indianapolis. All 9,000 reserved chair seats were full. By the end of June 1957, 500 Festival organizers met to debrief and began planning for the next year’s events. Their mission was to create a bigger and better festival in 1958. This devotion and diligence continue to set the tone for the 500 Festival and our lineup of nearly 50 different programs and events held year-round.
Interested in hearing more about our history? You can view the timeline of the 500 Festival HERE.
To view photos, past programs, and other 500 Festival archived items, make sure to check the 500 Festival Digital Archival Collection, hosted courtesy of IUPUI’s Center for Digital Scholarship.
All Are Welcome!
As an organization providing multiple events and programs, many of which are free to attend and impact over 500,000 people annually, our mission to enrich lives and positively impact our community is wholly inclusive and applies to everyone.
The Festival delivers community spirit, volunteerism, participation, inclusion, entertainment, social connecting, business networking, and even health initiatives.
Whether attending the AES 500 Festival Parade, participating in the Salesforce & JPMorgan Chase 500 Festival Kids’ Day, running in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, or serving as a volunteer, the 500 Festival welcomes participation from everyone, and we’re confident that our participants will continue to experience the Hoosier hospitality that we pride ourselves on.
National in Scope, Homegrown in Spirit
Indianapolis is largely defined by the historic Indianapolis 500 and the grand community festival that surrounds it. With nearly 50 annual events and programs, the 500 Festival fuels the entire magical month of May.
Decades of Community Service
By offering a wide variety of cultural, educational, and social events, the 500 Festival touches more than 500,000 people annually…and in meaningful ways. Its signature events – like the AES 500 Festival Parade and OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon – connect the community in large proportions…and showcase our city on a world stage.
National Media Exposure and Tourism Driver
As one of the nation’s largest festivals, 500 Festival events draw both exposure and people. Families from across the globe attend the AES 500 Festival Parade, which is nationally televised on NBC Sports Network. The AES 500 Festival Parade is one of the nation’s three largest, along with the likes of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Pasadena Tournament of Roses. One of only a few nationally televised parades, it attracts an estimated 300,000 curbside spectators – locals and tourists alike.
With over 30,000 participants, The Indy Mini is one of the nation’s largest half-marathons and one of Indiana’s largest health initiatives. The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon alone draws more than 20,000 participants from outside greater Indianapolis, becoming more and more of a valuable tourism and economic impact driver. By getting nearly 35,000 people moving, we’re helping people focus on their health and well-being.
It’s Good Business
The 500 Festival is a self-funded, not-for-profit organization deriving its revenue streams from ticket sales, event registrations, sponsorship, and corporate memberships. Hundreds of local, regional, and national companies participate in a variety of ways. And it works.
100TH RUNNING CELEBRATION MURAL AT THE 500 FESTIVAL BUILDING
Artist Carl B. Leck pays homage to the historical significance of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 500 Festival by contrasting the past and the present.
This vibrant mural design highlights the evolution of the Indy 500 by representing the original Pagoda, the Marmon Wasp, and the winning Indy car from 1969, which marked a turning point in IndyCar design with the addition of bolt-on wings and rear-mounted engines.
Sitting proudly, front and center of the mural design is the modern IndyCar adorned with the 500 Festival’s logo on the nose, as it crosses the finish line first. Following in step, the marching band signifies one of the 500 Festival’s original events, the AES 500 Festival Parade. Racing to the finish line, runners from the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon signify one of the nation’s most beloved half-marathons. Both events represent the 500 Festival’s mission to produce life-enriching events and programs while celebrating the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500 and fostering a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.