Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year marked the sixth time my wife and I attended the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis. It’s an annual date-day tradition for us —- partly to see the floats and high school marching bands, partly for the famous names and partly because I love the sight of a bustling downtown Indianapolis. The next six entries (to be posted over the next few days as quickly as time and attention span permit) represent a fraction of the pics my wife and I snapped. In many cases, encores and additional takes of specific subjects may be available if anyone out there is interested in seeing more, or is looking for a loved one who was in one of the many marching bands that day. For first-time MCC visitors, please note my wife and I are relative amateurs, absolutely not trained professional photographers, sharing these from a hobbyist standpoint because fun and joy.
Part 6, the grand finale: hours before the parade began, Anne and I walked up and down Meridian Street and Pennsylvania, the parallel north-south legs of the parade route, to peek behind the curtains at some of the participating teams and objects as they got their acts together before the official proceedings commenced for an adoring, sweating public. I participated in a 500 Festival Parade myself several years ago, but never took much time to look beyond my own group. Until now.
(As always, photos are clickable for enlargement and resolution and such.)
The parade began at noon. When we arrived at our bleacher seats shortly before 11:30, this was the scene: clowns. Lots of clowns.
To boost their ranks, the Cincinnati Circus Company sent over a pair of stilt-clowns to raise the crowd’s spirits with some wacky walking and ball-tossing, and to help raise clown tolerance awareness.
Before all that, we rewind a few hours to breakfast time, before downtown Indianapolis was flooded with happy parade fans and bored out-of-towners recovering from their Friday night hangovers. Anne and I arrived downtown shortly before 8 a.m. so we could park at my workplace without paying ten bucks for event parking. We grabbed breakfast at First Watch and set out to survey the territory.
In the first five entries, you saw pics of several marchers and celebrities taking photos instead of waving at us. The object of their fascination was the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, the war memorial in the middle of Monument Circle and the geographic center of the Circle City. Once upon a time, there was an ordnance prohibiting any buildings taller than the Monument. That quaint idea was retracted decades ago.
Parade days offer the rare chance for visitors to saunter across the middle of Meridian Street without rush hour traffic flattening you.
Several downtown businesses are closed on Saturdays and don’t reap the benefits of the one-day tourist dollar influx. (Looking in your direction, Paradise Bakery.) Some businesses that normally open on Saturdays will stay closed during the 500 Festival Parade because they assume everyone will be too busy to care about them. One of those is the Indiana World War Memorial, surrounded as it was by semis and other trucks carrying heavy parade paraphernalia. We tried to go inside one year, but were denied because parade. Sadly it’s one of the largest Indiana attractions that we’ve never been inside — especially vexing for my wife the history buff.
Police are in position early at every intersection. Despite the ostensible fun and frivolity, horrifying news headlines of crowds turned into mass tragedy magnets mean that worst-case scenarios need to be planned for and deterred at all costs. We appreciate those who serve, even though most of us are pretty boring to watch and profile.
Walking down Pennsylvania Avenue will take you to the gathering spots for all the various organizations. Entrance beyond certain points is forbidden to anyone not actually in the parade, but gawking from a distance is no big deal. One year we tried to cross the line because there’s a breakfast diner somewhere in that direction we’ve never tried. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS,” said a polo-shirt guard who was just doing his job and wasn’t starving.
Several sections have faraway cordons that prevent looky-loos from seeing too many parade spoilers, but they can’t hide everything. A few of the larger floats can be seen around the borders of the restricted blocks.
Some entities have to share tight spaces between the blocks because Indy can only shut down so many streets at a time. Here a military band clusters next to Walk Off the Earth’s float-ride.
Further down, parents and friends watch cheerleader practice before their big gig. Motions are repeated, instructions are megaphoned, and the same snippet of the same song is played over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again till the majority has the patterns mastered.
Nearby, American flags remain rolled up for now till time to celebrate.
Intricate costumes and headgear belonging to Ballet Folklorico Mosaicos are circled in the shade, biding their time till their wearers arrive.
The extended parade prep area ends at the steps of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library, or “the Central Library” to us local cool kids. Normally it’s the site of the absolute best 741.5-741.59 section in all of Indiana, but for the moment it’s the red-carpet assembly area for all the celebrities signed up for the parade.
After the upscale black vehicles departed, the members of Walk Off the Earth, rather than going inside, got into these golf carts and were chauffeured away to their next activity point.
A minute or so after they puttered away, The Voice winner Josh Kaufman walked up with his kids, presumably from whichever downtown garage he parked the family car in, and escorted them inside. Different rides for different levels, I guess.
The parking spaces along St. Clair Street in front of the library were filled with the vintage pace cars that would serve as the rides for various guests. It’s like the best free auto show in town for folks who love classic cars.
If you have time to wander Indiana before the parade starts, you owe it to your kids to find your way to the big field where the floats are aired up and huddled together until they’re called into action.
To the float volunteers maybe it’s no big deal, but it was neat seeing all these giant-sized cartoon characters congregating in one spot like they’re confabbing with each other about the perils of fame or their pet peeves about their assistants or whatever.
I imagine there’s a solemn ceremony that takes place during the annual American flag inflation.
Meanwhile the Angry Birds hang back and watch and offer no help at all because America’s new media darlings have a successful movie out in theaters, so they had first dibs on the air hoses.
Eventually we had to end our impromptu behind-the-scenes tour of the parade and make our way back to our ticketed seats so we could watch the show as its organizers intended. In our wake, the gargantuan balloons and their diminutive handlers gazed upon the Indianapolis cityscape and prepared for the long, merry walk ahead.
The End. Thanks for reading.
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