The 500 Festival held its “Kickoff” to May celebration downtown on Wednesday with a racecar, pace cars, the 500 princesses, dignitaries and politicians, and a long, straight, ceremonious kick from the “Boomstick” to (literally) kick off a month of festivities leading up to the Indianapolis 500.
McAfee said he was honored to get the call from the 500 Festival. “I think the month of May is loaded with so many great things,” he said. “You’ve got the Mini-Marathon, obviously, you’ve got the parade, you’ve got the Snakepit Ball, you’ve got Carb Day, you’ve got the race. So, the month of May is just filled with fun from beginning ’til end. And it’s all just going to be a blast.”
It’s a month Mayor Greg Ballard, on hand for the event, calls “absolutely the best month in any city in the world, ever.”
“There are so many traditions to all of this,” said Ballard. “We love the checkered flags, the chugging of the milk, the kissing the bricks, and all of that. That’s just part of who we are as Hoosiers.”
And in his years as an Indianapolis Colt, McAfee himself has become something of an adopted Hoosier. “Hoosier hospitality is a real thing,” he said. “And that’s what I’ve learned since I’ve lived here. I’ve lived here for seven years now, and I haven’t met a single person who’s been bad to me or treated me in a bad way. That’s why I love Indiana. It’s my home. I stay here year-round and will always stay here.”
Growing up near Pittsburgh, McAfee said, he wasn’t much of a racing fan and had no idea what the Indianapolis 500 was all about, not to mention all the preparation that goes into it.
“A year of planning,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles, who also attended the kickoff event. “It starts for everybody literally at the checkered flag of the previous year, and we can’t wait for the month of May.”