The Indianapolis Motor Speedway had such a successful debut with its Centennial Era Balloon Festival last year, they decided to do it again this year.
Saturday, May 8 will be the kickoff of the Month Of May festivities, with a balloon race in the morning, a late afternoon concert by the Gin Blossoms, and a balloon “glow” and fireworks in the Speedway Infield that evening.
Best of all, it’s all free.
The Founders Race will host a field of 33 balloons and launches at 7:30 am. It starts at the same time as the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, so if you need to make a choice, stick with the balloon festival. That’s because the race starts downtown, and ends on the oval. This way, you can watch the balloons take off and the Mini finish from the same location. (But that’s just me, I’m lazy that way. Otherwise, I’d be running in the race.)
The balloon race pays tribute to the very first competitive event to take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a helium gas-filled balloon competition on Saturday, June 5, 1909. And in a fit of historic synchronicity, you can ride a true helium-filled balloon at Conner Prairie’s 1859 Balloon Voyage, which I was lucky enough to do last year. It’s in Fishers, so it will give you something to do after the balloons take off, and before the concert.
The IMS infield will be closed during the Mini, which means you won’t be able to get inside the Speedway to watch the balloon launch, but there will be a number of vantage points available around the perimeter. Then, at 5:00 pm, the gates will open, and the concert will begin at 5:15. Red Moon will open, and the Gin Blossoms will follow. The balloon “glow” is at 8:00 pm, and the fireworks is set for 9:15.
The rain date for the balloon race is Sunday, May 9.
You can read more information about the Centennial Era Balloon Festival at the IMS website.