Princess Program aims to develop leaders


The 500 Festival Princess Program has continued developing since it started as a pageant in 1959,

“Throughout its 65-year history, the program has evolved into an ambassador program,” said Laura Bliss, 500 Festival director of operations. “The sashes and tiaras are part of tradition, but today’s program’s focus has shifted to commitment to service, effective communication, strong leadership, academic excellence and professionalism. The 2024 Princesses who represent the 500 Festival in their hometowns and communities around the state are 33 of Indiana’s most impressive college leaders and achievers.”

Bliss, an Indianapolis resident, has worked with the Princess Program since 2016.

“Each year, we receive hundreds of applications for 33 coveted spots,” Bliss said. “College-aged women from around the state of Indiana serve as 500 Festival Princesses who represent the 500 Festival and the Indianapolis 500 throughout their communities. Princesses participate in community outreach events around Indiana. They visit elementary school classrooms, nursing homes, community events, and everything in between, to bring the spirit of the 500 Festival and Indy 500 to these audiences. It’s a way to bring the fun and festivities of the month of May and Indy 500 to everyone – whether you’re attending the Indy 500 or not.”

The program is sponsored by The National Bank of Indianapolis.

“Each 500 Festival Princess is paired with a member of the 500 Festival’s Board of Directors, who serves as her mentor throughout her time as a Princess and beyond,” Bliss said. “The Princesses and board directors are paired based on areas of common interest, including their professional and educational backgrounds. For example, a Princess who is majoring in public health may get paired with an executive at a hospital system. Additionally, Princesses are invited to a variety of leadership development and networking events where they can connect with individuals in their communities.”

Bliss said one Princess, Zionsville Community High School graduate Marin Davis, is planning an Indy 500 Festival Day May 3 at the Zionsville Hussey-Mayfield Public Library, where she’ll interact with kids and families in attendance and share about the 500 Festival and spread excitement about the activities in May. Another Princess, Carmel High School graduate Lauren Bailey, is participating May 17 in Smoky Row Elementary School’s kindergarten 500 parade and race, where she’ll help with the event.