500 Festival to Commemorate Centennial Anniversary of Indiana’s WWI Welcome Home Parade During the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade

INDIANAPOLIS — The 500 Festival, a nonprofit organization providing life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500®, today announces the 100-year anniversary of the Indiana World War I homecoming parade will be commemorated in several ways during the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade on May 25.

In May 1919, Indianapolis held a “Welcome Home Day” parade for soldiers returning from WWI after being away from home for almost two years. A replica of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris was created on the south end of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis to celebrate the troops as they marched through the city in front of thousands of citizens welcoming them back to Indiana. It was also in 1919 that the Indianapolis 500 resumed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after taking two years off during World War I, marking the return of Indiana’s greatest heroes and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing to the Circle City.

“100 years ago, Hoosiers gathered in downtown Indianapolis and along Monument Circle to celebrate the sacrifices of service members during World War I,” said Bob Bryant, president and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We are proud to honor this anniversary as spectators gather once again to celebrate the iconic tradition of the Indianapolis 500 and pay tribute to our fallen heroes on Memorial Day Weekend.”

“It’s important that we never forget the sacrifices made by brave service members throughout history who gave us all the freedom we enjoy today,” said Brig. Gen. J. Stewart Goodwin, USAF (Ret), co-chair of the Indiana World War I Centennial Committee and executive director of the Indiana War Memorial. “I’m excited that spectators during the IPL 500 Festival Parade will be able to celebrate their legacy and learn more about the heroes and heritage of our state and country. Approximately 135,000 Hoosiers served in the ‘War to end all wars’ and 3,300 sacrificed their lives. The Indiana War Memorial and Plaza were built following the War to honor these heroes.”

Some of the ways the centennial anniversary will be commemorated during the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade include:

The American Legion Float: Turning the Corner into the Next Century

Eddie Rickenbacker was a racecar driver who competed in the Indianapolis 500 four times before he entered World War I. During the Great War, Rickenbacker had 26 aerial victories, becoming America’s most successful aerial fighter and earning him the Medal of Honor. The American Legion will pay tribute to Rickenbacker, and will include a replica of the WWI era fighter plane he used. It will also feature a replica of Rickenbacker’s Maxwell racer that he drove in the Indy 500 with alongside a modern IndyCar replica.

Salvation Army Donut Girl Reenactors

During WWI, young women who volunteered for the Salvation Army were called “Donut Girls” and were stationed right up against the battlefield. One evening, to lift the spirits of American soldiers, the women used the limited ingredients at their disposal to make donuts. The treats were a huge hit with the soldiers and the donut became a symbol of the Salvation Army and comfort for American troops abroad. The very first “Donut Girl,” Helen Purviance, was a Hoosier from Huntington, Ind. Donut Girl reenactors will be participating in the IPL 500 Festival Parade, marching alongside the American Legion float.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Float: Anthem Angels – Honoring Our Military Heroes

Anthem has a longstanding tradition of honoring America’s military heroes with their IPL 500 Festival Parade float design. This year, their entry will pay tribute to servicemen and women from the past 100 years, connecting past and present. The float will be a journey through time, featuring massive images from the WWI welcome home celebrations alongside replicas of vessels used by our armed forces today. The float will also feature Anthem Angels – servicemen and women from all branches of the military.

2019 Parade Participants 

All 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade participants will wear a patriotic lapel ribbon to represent the more than 3,000 Hoosiers lost in battle during WWI.

“IPL is proud to be part of this Indianapolis tradition and honor the tremendous sacrifices made by Indiana service members,” said Tanya Sovinski, IPL’s director of community relations and 500 Festival board member. “The IPL 500 Festival Parade is the perfect occasion to incorporate these additional tributes to our military for the 100th anniversary of ‘Welcome Home Day’ celebrations.”

One of the original 500 Festival events, 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. More than 300,000 people will line the streets of downtown Indianapolis to experience the larger-than-life floats, giant helium balloons, celebrities, award-winning bands, and all 33 drivers competing in the 103rd Running of the Indy 500.

The 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade will take place on Saturday, May 25. The theme for 2019 is “Your Tradition is Waiting in Our Own Brickyard.” IndyCar team owner and philanthropistSam Schmidt will lead the parade as the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade Grand Marshal. 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.

The 63rd IPL 500 Festival Parade will be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network and broadcast to the Indianapolis market on WTHR, Channel 13. For more information about the IPL 500 Festival Parade, please visit 500festival.com/parade or search #IPL500Parade on social media.

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.