500 Festival planning historic 2019 parade

A rendering of the IMS float that will be in the 500 Festival Parade (Photo: 500 Festival)
500 Festival Parade 10 days away
Preparing for the parade
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A record number of floats, silence, and impressive grand marshal highlight this year's 500 Festival Parade.

The day before the eyes of the world are upon Indiana for the Indianapolis 500, the streets of downtown get packed with more than 300,000 people for the IPL 500 Festival Parade.

The 2019 parade is already breaking records — a historic number of floats will be in this year’s parade. While there are typically just under 100 entries each year, there are only a handful of large-scale floats. This year, there are more than a dozen.

A Kid Again 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
American Dairy 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
American Legion 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
Anthem 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
CSL Plasma 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
500 Festival Princes Program float (Photo: 500 Festival)
Heineken 2019 500 Festival (Photo: 500 Festival)
IMS 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
Indiana Wine Grape Council 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
IPL 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
Eli Lilly 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
Shell 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)
The Children's Museum 2019 500 Festival Parade float (Photo: 500 Festival)

A tradition that started in 1956, the parade used to be held at night. Click here for a look at past parade floats and celebrities.

While leaders previously announced that Sam Schmidt would be the parade grand marshal, it turns out he'll do so in historic fashion.

Schmidt will be the first grand marshal to drive himself in the parade, driving his special Semi-Autonomous Motor (SAM) car. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of his last appearance in the parade when he was a driver for the Indianapolis 500.

Schmidt suffered a spinal cord injury in the 2000 season opener at the Walt Disney World Speedway. In 2013, he partnered with Arrow Electronics to develop a car that’s driven by Schmidt’s head movement with speed controlled by his breath.

Schmidt is the owner of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and is the first quadriplegic in Nevada to have an active driver's license.

This year's parade will also feature a moment of silence to honor Mari Hulman George. The IMS Chairman of the Board Emeritus died at the age of 83 in November 2018.

Hulman George started as a racing team owner before she turned 21 and put cars in the Indianapolis 500 in 1962 and 1963. Her husband, Elmer George drove both cars.

She served as chairman of the board for the Speedway from 1988 to 2016 and gave the famous command for drivers to start their engines starting in the late 1990s through 2015.

The Swon Brothers finished in third place on the foruth season of NBC's "The Voice." (Photo: 500 Festival)
The Swon Brothers finished in third place on the fourth season of NBC's "The Voice." (Photo: 500 Festival)

Fans of NBC's "The Voice" will recognize the parade's musical act.

The Swon Brothers will serve as the opening act, flanked by Indiana Pacemates and Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders for the opening production. The chart-topping country music duo will sing the national anthem and will also perform their top 15 hit "Later On."

While celebrity announcements usually aren't realized until just days before the parade, there is one who confirmed his appearance early. Longtime actor Jerry Mathers of "Leave it to Beaver" will be at the parade.

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the mid 1990s, Mathers routinely speaks to groups about how he manages and copes with the disease.

The parade is also highlighted by a number of bands from across the state that perform along the route. Click here for this year’s lineup.

You can watch the IPL 500 Festival Parade live exclusively on WTHR Saturday, May 25 starting at Noon. While you can watch it in person along the route, seats are available in bleachers. Click here for ticket information.

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