INDIANAPOLIS (March 8, 2019) – The 500 Festival, a nonprofit organization providing life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500®, today announced that Sam Schmidt has been named Grand Marshal of the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade.
Sam Schmidt was an IndyCar driver when he sustained a C-3/4/5 spinal cord injury while practicing for the 2000 season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway. He created the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) that year to raise funds for medical research, innovative equipment used for rehabilitation, and quality-of-life issues. SSPF, now Conquer Paralysis Now, is a leading authority on spinal cord injury research and treatment. They are backed by an international coalition of medical doctors, research scientists and business leaders who share a singular goal: Finding a cure for paralysis.
While he lost the use of his limbs, Schmidt never lost his will or his passion for racing. In 2013, Schmidt agreed to partner with engineers from Arrow Electronics who were committed to make his dream to drive again a reality. Together, a team of engineers and medical researchers worked to modify a car to be safely driven by Sam’s head movement. On May 18, 2014, Sam took the Semi-Autonomous Motor Car (SAM Car) to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, driving for the first time since his accident in 2000. He was able to reach 97 MPH, and later reached 107 MPH back at IMS. Schmidt is the current co-owner of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He is also the first quadriplegic in Nevada to have an active driver’s license, and is motivated to continue working with Arrow to further develop the SAM Car.
To honor his achievements with Conquer Paralysis Now and with IndyCar, Sam Schmidt has been named Grand Marshal of the 63rd IPL 500 Festival Parade. 500 Festival president and CEO Bob Bryant surprised Sam with the announcement during a team press conference for the 2019 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of when Sam was last driven in the parade as a driver for the Indy 500, and Sam will drive himself on the parade route using the SAM Car.
“Sam is a tremendous example of overcoming adversity and using innovative technologies to improve the livelihood of people with disabilities. As a past driver and current team owner, it was only fitting that we surprised Sam with this announcement while doing what he loves. We’re excited to have Sam return to the IPL 500 Festival Parade as Grand Marshal, 20 years after he rode the route as an Indy 500 driver,” said Bob Bryant, president and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We can’t wait to witness innovative technology in action with Sam at the helm of Arrow’s SAM Car.”
“It’s with great excitement that we welcome Sam Schmidt as Grand Marshal for the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 25,” said Tanya Sovinski, IPL’s director of community relations and 500 Festival board member. “Sam joins the legacy of IPL 500 Festival Parade Grand Marshals who are driven to create change in their communities and use their platform to be a voice for a noble cause. This will be a great opportunity to celebrate the legacy of the Indy 500 and share his mission with over 300,000 spectators.”
One of the original events produced by the 500 Festival, the IPL 500 Festival Parade is one of the nation’s largest, most respected parades, consistently earning national acclaim alongside the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade will be held the day before the Indianapolis 500, and will be themed Your Tradition is Waiting in Our Own Brickyard. 300,000 spectators will line the Parade route to experience the pageantry of the Indy 500 as larger-than-life floats and massive helium balloons light up the skyline of downtown Indianapolis as celebrities, marching bands, patriotic units and specialty units fill the streets to celebrate the world’s largest single-day sporting event. The tradition continues with the 33 starting drivers of the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, riding in the traditional rows of three.
2019 Parade Theme – Your Tradition is Waiting in our own Brickyard: In Indianapolis, the month of May means family, friends, and the 500. For more than 60 years, the IPL 500 Festival Parade has led the charge with our iconic community celebration. Each year builds on the foundation of the last, blending together old and new as the world gathers in the Circle City. Before the green flag drops at the starting line at the brickyard, the 33 drivers parade down the bricks of Monument Circle, admired by the youngest and more experienced race fans. There’s no way to describe the feeling of May until you have experienced it for yourself. But once you have, you’ll treasure the lifelong memories of the high-octane adventures the month brings.
There are a million ways to May, but only one IPL 500 Festival Parade. We invite you to join us as we celebrate the countless traditions of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and create a few new ones along the way. New Traditions. Historic Brickyard. This is May.
The 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade will take place on Saturday, May 25. Parade festivities will start at 11:45 am ET in downtown Indianapolis. IPL 500 Festival Parade tickets start at $10 and can be purchased at 500festival.com/tickets, by calling (317) 614-6400, or at the 500 Festival Ticket Office, located at 21 Virginia Ave. in Downtown Indianapolis. The Ticket Office is open on weekdays from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.
For more information about the IPL 500 Festival Parade, please visit 500festival.com/parade or search #IPL500Parade on social media.
Conquer Paralysis Now funds scientific research, medical treatment, rehabilitation and technological advances that lead us toward a cure – whether through positive advances or failures that help guide the next effort. Learn more at www.conquerparalysisnow.org.
About the 500 Festival
Founded in 1957, the 500 Festival is a not-for-profit organization that produces more than 50 life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500® and foster positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana. One of the largest festivals in the nation, each year more than half a million people attend an event or program produced by the 500 Festival. Since its founding, the 500 Festival has contributed more than $400 million in economic value to Indianapolis. To learn more about the 500 Festival, please visit www.500festival.com, follow us on Twitter @500festival, or on Facebook.
Sabrina List, 500 Festival
Office: (317) 614-6141