This year is the 102nd anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, an annual three day event that takes place in late May. When the winning driver enters the Victory Circle, cheering from the sidelines will be friends, family and a few princesses—33 princesses to be exact.
Each year, 33 female college students are selected for a scholarship program called the “Indy 500 Princess Program.” This spring, one of the princesses is senior biology and psychology major Lauren Bryant.
The winners serve as ambassadors for Indianapolis at the festival, and each receives a $1,000 scholarship for her education alongside networking and volunteer opportunities. What makes this pageant stand out, according to Bryant, is that the qualifications are not based on physical appearance—the contest has no pageant portion.
“They [the judges] really just cared about why I wanted to show people basically that I love Indiana, I love my city, I love my state,” Bryant said, “and how I’ve shown that in the past through my service, through my dedications in my studies, through how I’m trying to reach goals to eventually better Indiana.”
Former 500 Princess and University of Indianapolis alumna Madi Kovacs agreed that the program shows a unique dedication to leadership.
“The most important thing I took away from the Princess Program was how to be a strong leader that is not overpowering,” Kovacs said. “The Princess Program is a leadership development program. We were able to sit down with top leaders from all over the state and broadened our networks a lot.”
Bryant said that the 500 Festival was in fact not at all what she had originally envisioned, but that is surprised her in a positive way.
“I would say that so far it’s completely defied ever expectation I’ve had, but in the best way,” Bryant said. “Anything I thought it was going to do well, it’s done above and beyond.”
More information about the 500 Fest Princess Program can be found at www.500festival.com.