Compiled by JACK SALES
Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to line downtown streets Saturday to witness the pageantry and spectacle of the IPL 500 Festival Parade.
During the celebration with the theme of “Fuel the Dream,” spectators will have the chance to catch a glimpse of the 33 starting drivers of the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, specialty units, nationally-known celebrities including grand marshal Patricia Heaton, spectacular floats, marching bands and entertainment groups, giant inflatable balloons and costumed characters.
The parade will be televised nationally on ESPN2 and locally on WISH-TV. The 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.
The first unit of the parade will step off from Pennsylvania and North streets at noon.
Costumed characters to delight children will include Donnie and Eliza Thornberry, Cosmo and Wanda, the Pink Panther and the Care Bears.
A diverse line-up of celebrities will delight parade goers. Among them will be: R&B super group the O’Jay’s, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Julianne Hough, Drew Lachey, Alison Sweeney, Marlee Matlin, Sabrina Bryan, Indiana Pacers players Jeff Foster and Danny Granger, Indiana Fever players Tamika Catchings and Katie Douglas and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Corporal Tibor Rubin and Retired Lt. Col. Bruce P. Crandall.
Mayweather is recognized as the best pound-for-pound boxer and is a world champion in five weight classes. Hough is a professional ballroom dancer best known as dance partner for Helio Castroneves on the ABC series, “Dancing with the Stars.” Hough is also a rising music artist with her debut country album “Julianne Hough” out this month. Hough will sing the National Anthem before the start of the running of the Indianapolis 500.
Lachey is best known as a member of the Motown recording group 98 Degrees. The four-part harmony group recorded four albums and sold over 8 million records worldwide. He has made several guest appearances on primetime television, acting and hosting, starred in independent features and was seen weekly on the hit MTV reality show “Newlyweds.” His most recent credit was being crowned the champion of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Actress Sweeney is best known for her work as Samantha Brady on the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives.” This role has earned Sweeny four Soap Opera Digest Awards and a Daytime Emmy.
Marlee Matlin won the Academy Award in 1986 for her debut in “Children of a Lesser God.” She continues to be the youngest winner in the Best Actress category, and one of the few actors to win for their debut performance. Matlin is also known for her work on the television series “Reasonable Doubts” and “Picket Fences.” She participated in the sixth season of “Dancing with the Stars.”
Bryan is best known as a member of the girl group, The Cheetah Girls. She, too, participated in season five’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
Granger is a forward for the Indiana Pacers. He attended University of New Mexico and Bradley University where he was a civil engineering major. In the 2005 NBA draft Granger was the 17th pick. He led the 2007-2008 season, for the Pacers in averaging 19 points per game, and started in all 80 games. Foster is a 6’11” center for the Pacers. He has played for the Pacers since being drafted in 1999.
Catchings was drafted by the Indiana Fever after playing basketball for the Tennessee Lady Volunteers from 1997-2001. Catchings is a leading figure in the Indianapolis community, having started the Catch the Stars Foundation Inc. which helps disadvantaged youth achieve their dreams. Catchings is a five-time WNBA All-Star and five-time All-WNBA selection. She is also president of the WNBA Players Association.
Douglas joined the Fever in February of 2008. She attended Purdue University as a communications major. In 2001 Douglas was named Big Ten Conference “Player of the Year” and 2001’s Big Ten Conference Suzy Favor Award which is given to the conference’s female athlete of the year across all sports. She helped lead Purdue to an NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship in 1999.
Also riding in the parade will be long-time 500 Festival favorites Florence Henderson, Ruth Buzzi and Jim Nabors, who is scheduled to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start of the 500-Mile Race on Sunday.
Rubin is a Holocaust survivor who was recognized with a 2005 Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery as a prisoner of war (POW) during the Korean War. Corporal Rubin spent two years as a POW in a Chinese concentration camp. When given the opportunity to leave, Corporal Rubin chose to remain in the prison camp to help provide food and medical treatment to other soldiers. He is credited with saving the lives of as many as 40 of his fellow prisoners.
Retired Lt. Col. Crandall was recognized with the 2007 Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership, heroism and courage during the Vietnam’s Battle of Ia Drang on Nov. 14, 1965. Crandall led a flight of 16 helicopters into Landing Zone X-Ray Ia Drang Valley and is credited with evacuating some 70 wounded comrades. The craft he was flying was unarmed.