Behind the Scenes with a 500 Festival Princess

Princess Nina DeWitt shares an inside look at the busy lives of Indy’s Month of May royalty.
500 Festival Princess

Being a 500 Festival Princess isn’t all tiaras, sashes, and smiles. Current princess Nina DeWitt, a senior at IUPUI studying biology and Spanish, let IM shadow her this past Saturday, when she volunteered at Kids’ Day, a large outdoor festival on Monument Circle. Though the following schedule might seem overwhelming, DeWitt said the day was unusual because she only had to attend one event. Typical days might include a number of activities, from working in the community to planning outreach and volunteer programs.

7:30 a.m.: Rise and Shine, Princess

After “sleeping in,” DeWitt wakes up on an air mattress wedged between four other girls, following a giant princess sleepover the night before. As the collective royalty rouse themselves from slumber, DeWitt takes a shower to prep for the long day ahead.

8:00 a.m.: Breakfast

With twenty-odd princesses crammed into one house, it’s only fitting that they start the day with a group breakfast. DeWitt’s includes turkey bacon, a croissant, and fruit salad.

9:00 a.m.: Go-Time

DeWitt and another princess hop into her car and drive downtown to finish getting ready for Kids’ Day on the Circle. They first drive to a friend’s house, where both girls finish putting on their makeup, don their princess attire (neon yellow jackets and smart black polo shirts), polish their crowns, and attempt to wind-proof their hair. “I don’t know how Miss America does it,” DeWitt says. “At the end of the day, my eyes are watering and my hair’s all over the place.”

11:00 a.m.: Morning Debrief

Before joining the Kids’ Day festivities, the princesses first meet at the 500 Festival offices downtown to receive instructions for the day. After checking that all the princesses are accounted for, the girls meet with their coordinators to iron out any last minute questions. “The other girls all came in with Starbucks,” DeWitt says. “I had serious latte envy.”

11:45 a.m.: Walk to Monument Circle

Between the whoosh of air inflating the bounce houses and the shouts of children entering the circle, 33 princesses wearing tiaras and neon yellow arrive at Monument Circle, smiling and chatting away.

12:15 p.m.: Volunteering at the Rookie Run

A hoard of 3- and 4-year-olds meet the princesses for the first time. While waiting for the Rookie Run to begin, DeWitt and her fellow princesses greet the children and their families. As Adele’s “Hello” blasts over loudspeakers, DeWitt leads the kids in warm-up exercises to get them excited for the Rookie Run. Half the kids are ecstatic to be there, while the other half are clearly confused and a bit teary-eyed. In an effort to make them feel better, DeWitt picks up the crying kids and runs the short race with them in her arms, proving that being a 500 Festival Princess takes more effort than you might think. “I want to work with kids one day,” DeWitt says. “I hope to settle down in Indy and work at Riley Hospital as a pediatric neuropsychologist.”

500 Festival Princess

1:30 p.m.: Sash-Making

Another packed venue, the sash-making tent draws kids of all ages. Quick to help every girl yearning to be a princess for a day, DeWitt measures them for their sashes and writes their names carefully in block letters. The little girls are all smiles when DeWitt says goodbye with a “Thanks, princess, it was nice meeting you!”

2:00 p.m.: Craft Tent

After a long morning, DeWitt and the other princesses in the craft tent manage to snag a slice of pizza to snack on while helping kids decorate race flags and tiaras. “We’re just like anyone else, you know?” says DeWitt, “We all eat pizza, though it definitely takes more than one slice to fill me up.”

3:45 p.m.: Cleanup

The 500 Festival Princesses firmly following the credo “work hard, play hard.” After spending the afternoon with children, the girls all pitch in to help clean up Monument Circle before heading back to the festival office for the day’s debriefing.

6:00 p.m.: Return Home

After a long day, DeWitt finally returns home for a bit of relaxation. Chips and salsa are her snack of choice and she munches on a few chips before getting back to work.

6:30–10:30 p.m.: Sorting the Princess Calendar

Princess itineraries don’t include much free time for mani-pedis. DeWitt’s evenings are dedicated to checking email, managing her community outreach events, and generally sorting out her schedule until the end of May. “The princesses have an unofficial motto: ‘Don’t sleep until the Month of May is over,’” DeWitt says. “But it’s totally worth it.”

10:30 p.m.: Relax

DeWitt watches Star Wars, one of her favorite movies, with her family before bedtime.

1:00 a.m.: Sweet Dreams, Princess

After one heck of a day, DeWitt finally goes to bed. As it turns out, princesses really do need their beauty sleep.

500 Festival Princess 

You can see DeWitt and her fellow princesses in action at Breakfast at the Brickyard, May 21, and the 500 Festival Parade, May 28.