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: Cieara Anderson is experiencing growth, spiritual enrichment through new friendships
I never thought that I would be in this position as part of the 500 Festival Princess Program.
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 everybody else.
Coming to Purdue, that was a really neat aspect — how diverse Purdue is. I just wanted to kind of immerse myself in that.
I think there’s something that you can learn from each princess in the 500 Festival Princess Program. And, of course, we have people who are a little bit more bubbly and people who are more to themselves. We have people who are gifted in this area and people who are gifted in that area. Having a wide range of women — you can learn something from everybody.
I just have a drive for building relationships. I can definitely see that it’s a spiritual gift for me to connect with someone. I really love being in community with people. There’s so much to learn. I find myself asking, “How often am I taking my time to get to know these girls and know who they really are and how I can be a light in their lives?” That’s something I want to strive for every day.
I just have a drive for building relationships. I can definitely see that it’s a huge spiritual gift for me to connect with someone. I really love being in community with people.Cieara Anderson
Sophomore, visual arts and design education, ’24
I think it’s really cool how the 500 Festival changes you. It’s just amazing to see the growth that has come with this program.
This student spotlight is part of a special series highlighting Purdue’s many connections to the Indy 500. Thank you to Cieara Anderson (sophomore, visual arts and design education, ’24) 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 …
Becoming a part of Indianapolis 500 and Purdue history
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.
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.