Becoming a part of Indianapolis 500 and Purdue history
The 500 Festival Princess Program celebrates Indiana’s most civic-minded and academically driven young women. For decades, exceptional female Purdue students have served as ambassadors of the 500 Festival, participating in service opportunities in their hometowns and Greater Lafayette in the lead-up to race day. In total, 33 princesses — matching the number of drivers in the Indy 500 — represent a variety of colleges and universities from across Indiana. Meet the five young Boilermakers representing Purdue as part of this year’s 500 Festival Princess Program. This story is part of a monthlong, behind-the-scenes look at Purdue’s storied history with the Indy 500.
Purdue at the Indy 500: Golduster Sophia Strain reflects on what a day dancing at the Indy 500 is like
I went to the Indy 500 when I was younger, but I didn’t know I was hearing the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band the whole time until I was able to be a part of it in college as a Golduster. It’s kind of hard to believe that I am a part of something I was listening to when I was 5 years old. I feel so special and honored to be a part of one of Purdue’s great traditions. And Purdue has a lot of them; no other school can compare.
Participating in the Indy 500 means you’re a part of Indiana history. This tradition is already 100 years old, and you know it will continue for hundreds of more years, so it’s really nice knowing I am contributing to that legacy. It has so much history and will continue to be history. I’m so thankful for my four years being a part of something so much greater than myself.
It’s very loud at the Indy 500. You hear the band playing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the crowd roaring and the cars racing by. The blacktop under your feet is very hot, and it feels and smells like a garage in the summer. We’re right there on the fence up against the starting line. It gives you so much adrenaline to be surrounded by it all.
I love dancing on the winner’s circle right next to the World’s Largest Drum. Everyone’s walking by to see us, and it’s like we’re bringing a piece of Purdue to Indianapolis. It’s probably equivalent to game day with just how much fun it is. I love it.
This tradition is already 100 years old, and you know it will continue for hundreds of more years.Sophia Strain
Senior, communication, ’22
This student spotlight is part of a special series highlighting Purdue’s many connections to the Indy 500. Thank you to Sophia Strain (senior, communication, ’22) for sharing your story with us.
Playing a part in an Indy 500 tradition, year after year
As a member of the Purdue “All-American” Marching band, Krupa Patel enjoys coming back to the Indy 500, a tradition held for over 100 years.
Redefining what it means to be a princess
I want to tell young girls: Whatever you want to put your mind to, you can achieve it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. As a female police officer, I’m going to have to work 20 times as …
Taking every opportunity to shape the future, empower others
In a world of influencers and models, you look at these people and you think, “I want to look like that.” But that’s not how it is with the 500 Festival Princess Program.
Empowering Indiana women through civic engagement
When I was in middle school choir, I was assigned to be a helper and mentor to a student with Down syndrome. I ended up getting really close with his family. I did a lot of work with the Special …
Seeing a community come together for race day
It’s the coolest moment when we turn the corner of the Indy 500 track, and you see all of the people in the stands lined up, and you are the first thing they’re all looking at.
Modeling community service for the next generation as a 500 Festival Princess
The 500 Festival Princess Program started out as a pageant, but there’s so much more to what it means to be a leader and a princess. I fell in love with community service my freshman year building an assistive fishing …
Combining student leadership and showmanship at the Indianapolis 500
At the Indy 500, a lot of the drum major’s role is the showmanship of it all — wearing the big, tall bear hats, leading the band through the parades, but there is also the logistics.
Building and celebrating a passion for community
Being from a small town, there’s not a whole lot of diversity. There wasn’t anybody that looked like me. I got pointed out a lot, and I just knew from a very early age I was not the same as …