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Vitale Named 500 Festival Parade Grand Marshal

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INDIANAPOLIS (April 28, 2009) – Legendary college basketball analyst and ambassador Dick Vitale will serve as grand marshal of the 2009 IPL 500 Festival Parade.  

The Parade is Saturday, May 23, and will be a celebration of the 2009 theme: Laps, Legends & Legacy: Honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway®. As Parade Grand Marshal, Vitale will also be attending the Regions 500 Festival Snakepit Ball, presented by Cindy and Paul Skjodt and take part in some ceremonial pre-race activities at the 2009 Indianapolis 500®.

“I am absolutely flattered and really thrilled to be honored in this way,” said Dick Vitale. “The Indy 500 is one of the greatest sporting weekends and to be Grand Marshal will be an incredible treat. My entire family is really looking forward to it.”

Vitale is best known for serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. He joined the network in 1979, following a successful college and professional coaching career. Vitale coached at the University of Detroit from 1973-1977. In May 1978, he was named head coach of the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, which he coached during the 1978-79. On December 15, 1979, Vitale called ESPN’s first-ever major basketball game – Wisconsin at DePaul. Since then he’s called close to a thousand games. In 2008, Vitale was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate, sometimes controversial — but never boring — style. Vitale is also a columnist for Basketball Times, has served as a guest columnist for USA Today since 1991, and has been a featured guest on virtually every sports radio station across the nation. Vitale has also authored eight books, the most recent of which – Dick Vitale’s Fabulous 50 Players and Moments in College Basketball — was released in 2008.

Vitale’s talents and influence are far reaching. He provides commentary in his “Dick Vitale’s Fast Break” segment which airs during the college basketball season on SportsCenter, he serves as a college basketball analyst for ESPN Radio, including appearing each Monday on the “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show. He has been a college basketball analyst for ABC since 1988, and has also covered the NBA Finals and the 1992 Summer Olympics for ABC Radio. His weekly ESPN.com column is one of the web site’s most popular features.

“We are fortunate as we celebrate our theme Laps, Legends & Legacy to have Dick Vitale, who is a legend in his own right, to serve as our grand marshal,” said Kirk Hendrix, President and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We like to recognize people for their body of work and Dick certainly has a long, successful and storied career that has touched many people.” “It is fitting for someone who is known for being colorful, enthusiastic, passionate and having great influence in the sports community to be a part of our cherished parade, particularly knowing that our entire state embraces the sport of basketball that he so passionately promotes.”

Vitale is also well known for covering the biggest games with his rare form of over the top energy and enthusiasm, coining terms: “Awesome, Baby!,” “Get a TO, Baby!” (call a timeout), “PTP’er” (prime-time player), “M & M’er” (a mismatch), “Diaper Dandy” (freshman star), “All-Windex Performer” (ferocious rebounder), “Rolls-Roycer” (a flat out superstar) and “Maalox time” (the final minutes of a close game).

Vitale is also dedicated to philanthropy efforts. He’s on the Board of Directors of the V Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for cancer and founded in 1993 by ESPN and late Jim Valvano. For years he has awarded five scholarships annually to the Boy’s & Girls Club of Sarasota.

Vitale’s popularity has stretched to the silver screen. He’s made cameo appearances in several movies as himself: The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad! (1988, starring Leslie Nielsen), Hoop Dreams (1994 award-winning documentary), Blue Chips (1994, Nick Nolte), The Sixth Man (1997, Marlon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison), He Got Game (1998, Denzel Washington and Ray Allen), and Love and Basketball (2000). In 1995’s Jury Duty with Pauly Shore and Tia Carrere, he played “Hal Gibson.” And in 1992, he teamed with Jim Valvano to play furniture movers (“V&V Movers”) on the hit series The Cosby Show.

The more than 300,000 spectators who are expected to line the two-mile parade route will get a glimpse of Vitale, the 33 starting drivers of the 2009 Indianapolis 500 ®, more than 80 specialty units, floats, marching bands and entertainment groups, giant inflatable balloons and costumed characters.

The IPL 500 Festival Parade has grown to be one of the signature events in the U.S. each year. It consistently ranks among the top three parades in the nation including the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Themed “Laps, Legends & Legacy: Honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway®” this year’s parade is a true representation of the power and pageantry of the month of May – a Hoosier tradition for 52 years with a television package that will bolster the Parade’s national presence. The IPL 500 Festival Parade will be televised nationally on VERSUS from 5-6:30 p.m. EDT; and locally on WISH TV 8 from 8-10 p.m.

Tickets to the IPL 500 Festival Parade are available at AAA Hoosier Motor Club locations, any Ticketmaster outlet or by calling (317) 614-6400. Reserved bleacher seats are $13.50; reserved chair seats $17 and reserved VIP/TV Zone seats are $30. For more information visit www.500festival.com.

Source: IPL 500 Festival

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