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Tips for Long-Distance Travel on @Amtrak

May 15, 2018 2 comments
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Engine 182 leading Amtrak’s Hoosier State 851 at historic Union Station in Indianapolis, IN.

Printable length: Seven pages and 3,400 words. #Amtrak #AmtrakAdventure

Is there a long distance cross country Amtrak® trip in your future that covers two or three days—such as the California Zephyr®, Coast Starlight®, Empire Builder®, Southwest Chief®, Sunset Limited®, City of New Orleans®, or the Texas Eagle® (among others)? 

Then here’s a checklist of things to consider when packing (in addition to your clothes, of course) that I hope you will find useful. 

This list summarizes what I’ve gleaned from watching countless YouTube videos and reading numerous TripAdvisor, Pinterest, and blog.amtrak.com posts that I researched while planning my very first trip on Amtrak later this month (May 2018).

I’m writing from the point-of-view of a male passenger who is 67, retired, and on a fixed income. Make adjustments for your own situation as necessary. Here is my itinerary with reserved seating in coach: 

  1. Five hours and 196 miles in coach on the Amtrak Hoosier State® 851 from Union Station in Indianapolis, Indiana to Union Station in Chicago, Illinois. Then:
  2. Three days, 51+ hours (assuming on time arrival), 2,438 miles in coach — through seven states — on the California Zephyr 5 Superliner from Chicago to Emeryville, California (near Oakland in the Bay Area), with 33 stops in between including Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno, and Sacramento, among others. Then:
  3. I’m going to do it in reverse a week later on the California Zephyr 6 and the Hoosier State 850. Onboard totals: 6 days over a 9-day period, 113 hours, 5,268 miles! Wish me luck!
  4. I paid $33 each way on the Hoosier State, $137 each way on the California Zephyr, for a total of $340. I made my reservations 114 days before my travel date. Reserve as far in advance as possible for the lowest fares.

I’m not in a particular hurry westbound, so even if the train is 10-20 hours late at its final destination, I’ll still be on time for a ticketed event I’m attending in Oakland that is 28 hours after scheduled arrival in Emeryville. I built an extra day into my travel plans just in case. 

But eastbound there’s not much wiggle room for a late train: scheduled arrival in Chicago is 2:50 pm with a same-day connection to Indianapolis at 5:45 pm. So I’ve got my fingers crossed for good luck and smooth sailing on that day!

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The waiting room at historic Union Station in Indianapolis (dating back to 1853 before the Civil War, it’s the oldest Union Station in the world).

I’ve done my best to research this trip and do my homework in advance. I’ve worked on this blog post for nearly four months. Here’s what I have found.

Checklist:

  • If Amtrak emailed your tickets, as they did mine, the email contains a QR code that the conductor can quickly scan directly from your smartphone before you board the train. But TAKE PRINTED TICKET RESERVATIONS if for any reason you can’t access them on your smartphone at the boarding point. NO TICKET? NO BOARDING! A word to the wise!
  • Smartphone and charger–of course!
  • Computer: laptop, tablet, Kindle, etc.
  • Download to your computer or smartphone any apps or documents or files you need before you get on the train. Many long-distance Amtrak trains do not have wi-fi service, including all the ones mentioned above (except the Hoosier State). Even if your route offers it, Amtrak wi-fi does not support high-bandwidth usage such as streaming music, streaming video, or downloading large files. See Amtrak Wi-Fi Information.
  • Take some Cash, $1 and $5 bills. You’ll need it to buy food items on the train, and it is appropriate to tip Amtrak employees for their good service. There’s a discussion about tipping near the end of this blog post in the “Comments” section.
  • Snacks that do not require refrigeration (peanuts, raisins, energy bars, maybe a PB&J sandwich or two, Little Debbie or Hostess snacks, Pringles, chocolate, candy bars, beef jerky, etc.). I’m sure you have your own personal favorites.
    • If you have a berth in a sleeping car, all meals in the Dining Car are included in the ticket price on the California Zephyr.
    • But if you are seated in coach, you will pay the published menu price in the Dining Car for sit-down, plated meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner selections) or in the Lounge Car for short-order and carry-out type items (sandwiches, pizza, snacks, beverages, etc.).
    • It appears that three squares in the Dining Car–breakfast, lunch, and dinner–could easily cost a coach passenger $50-$75 a day, plus gratuities. See Amtrak Meals and Dining.
    • Even if I were to spend $75 a day on meals on the train (which I won’t), it’s still way less expensive for a coach seat with pay-as-you-go food purchases compared to a roomette with meals included—at least based upon the ticket prices I was offered for a roomette on Amtrak’s Web site when I tried to upgrade 21 days after my original reservations ($1,908 round trip vs. $340 coach). All things considered, I think I’ll munch on my snacks in coach, drink my water, and maybe get some hot food from the Lounge Car.
    • By the way, Amtrak accepts major credit cards for meal and food purchases: VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and debit cards featuring a credit card logo.
  • Two liters of water per day. Why? Because that’s what my doctor told me to do. I’m taking four liters of Wal-Mart’s Clear American water because that’s my favorite: no sugar, no sodium, no calories, no carbs, but still tastes great. I’d take six but there’s not enough room in my baggage.
    • Four one-liter bottles fit nicely into one of my 14x11x7” carry-on bags with room for my snacks. Then I’ll use some packets of Crystal Light lemonade mix to refill the empty bottles on the third day.
    • An Amtrak customer service representative in Indianapolis told me that the sink water in the restrooms is drinkable (but not cold).
  • Camera plus any lenses, spare batteries, charger, and memory cards. There are lots of great photo opportunities on the train, both inside and out. Smartphone photos and videos are OK these days, but I consider a quality digital camera with HD video capability to be a mandatory item on a trip of this length and nature. By the way, this trip is tailor-made for GoPro and other video enthusiasts!
  • Battery chargers needed for any other digital devices. I’m taking a Jackery Giant, which will charge two devices at the same time (and also has a small flashlight built in).
  • Ear buds for your smartphone, tablet, DVD player, or laptop. Respect your fellow passengers and keep the sounds to yourself.
  • Ear plugs and/or ear muffs for peace and quiet, and/or at sleep time. Here’s an ear muffs suggestion.
  • Travel blanket and pillow. Several bloggers say that it’s cold on the train. You will appreciate a blanket in coach, especially at night–and might just be the envy of those who did not bring one. Suggestions:
    Travel blanket/pillow combo.
    Travel Pillow Cover.
    Or pick up an Amtrak Passenger Comfort Kit for $10 available in the Lounge or Cafe Car on board. It includes an inflatable pillow, ear plugs, blanket, and eye shade in a keepsake tote.
  • Sleep mask. Here’s a suggestion for a sleep mask. I don’t know if it will help me sleep, but I’m taking one and will at least give it a try.
  • Duct Tape. A small roll of duct tape may come in handy if your luggage or clothing or shoes come apart, or for minor repairs on board.
  • Binder Clips. A handful of binder clips are good for holding curtains together, keeping paperwork from scattering, securing food packaging that has been opened but only partially consumed, etc.
  • Cable cuffs are perfect for securing items you don’t want to lose; also good for organizing power and extension cords, etc. I fasten my key chain to one of the belt loops on my jeans with a cable cuff so my keys don’t accidentally fall out of my pocket. Cable cuffs are available in several sizes at Home Depot in the electrical aisle.
  • Perhaps a small first aid kit (although I’ve read that first aid kits are available in all Amtrak cars).
  • Pocket flashlight (sure, I know your smartphone has a flashlight, but a little one that fits on your key chain will come in handy after lights out, especially in coach).
  • Shoes are required to be worn in all cars on the train when you leave your seat or sleeper berth. Several bloggers have suggested taking flip flops for use in the showers (coach passengers do not have access to a shower).
  • Six-foot extension cord. There are only two power outlets in each row in coach. If you have a passenger in the seat next to you, the extension cord will come in handy. It’s a nice gesture if the passenger has the aisle seat, and you’ll be glad you have the extension cord if you have the aisle seat.
  • Multi-outlet power strip (especially if you have more than one digital item to charge. For example, you could easily charge a smartphone, laptop, and camera battery simultaneously, or share the outlets with your fellow passenger.)
  • Multi-outlet USB charger (might be a good alternative to the power strip, depending on your needs).
  • A three-prong adapter, just in case.
  • A couple of hand towels and wash cloths (and take a Ziploc bag for the wet cloths). An Amtrak customer service representative in Indianapolis told me that coach passengers do NOT have access to a shower. So I’ll use my wash cloths, soap, hand sanitizer, and wet wipes for hygiene and cleanliness during the trip.
  • Empty 13-gallon trash bag for dirty clothes.
  • TSA approved luggage locks for all your bags.
  • Books or other reading materials.
  • Playing cards (if you are traveling with kids, think through what else you may need to keep them amused).
  • Sunglasses.
  • A small cooler if you need to keep anything cold (may be substituted for one of your small 14x11x7” carry-on items).
  • For females, feminine hygiene items as needed.

Toiletries Organizer:

  • My organizer holds all the items mentioned below and fits easily into one of my large suitcases with my clothes. Your needs may vary, but these are some items you may want to include in your organizer, based upon suggestions I’ve read online (some of these are little comfort items that are easy to forget but can come in handy):
    • Any medicines or prescriptions you use. If you have a pill box, put it inside a large Ziploc bag so the box doesn’t pop open causing pills to spread all through your luggage! Remember you have no access to checked luggage enroute, so keep your meds in one of your carry-ons.
    • Hair dryer, comb, brush.
    • Shaving kit.
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
    • Deodorant.
    • Travel-size Kleenex and/or handkerchiefs.
    • Wet wipes (you will find these very useful on board, I’m told).
    • Travel-size hand sanitizer.
    • Chap Stick (it can get dry on the train, I’ve read)
    • Soap.
    • Travel-size shampoo.
    • Travel-size mouthwash.
    • Antacid.
    • Powder.
    • Air freshener. I don’t know how Amtrak feels about this. Ask your Amtrak attendant before you open or use such an item on board.

Comments:

I found all the travel and snack items mentioned in this blog post at my local Wal-Mart. They have small travel-size items in an aisle near the pharmacy for around $1.00 each (soap, shampoo, shaving cream, wet wipes, tissues, mouthwash, toothpaste, simple first aid kit, deodorant, air freshener, hand sanitizer, etc.).

Wal-Mart also has a travel section in the aisle where they sell suitcases. It has travel blankets and pillows, pillow cases, luggage tags, TSA approved luggage locks (combination or key), travel organizers, sleep masks, some small travel items, etc. $1-$10 price range per item.

Amtrak’s Very Generous Per Person Baggage Allowance:

  1. You can take two big bags up to 28x22x14 inches and 50 pounds each that can be checked through to your destination or placed in the baggage compartment in your car, plus:
  2. Two carry-on items up to 14x11x7 inches and 25 pounds each that you can take to your seat.
  3. There are no baggage fees unless you go over this allowance!
  4. If you have a roomette or sleeping berth, it appears to be a good idea to check your two big bags. It doesn’t look like there is enough space for them in your room.
  5. You cannot access checked bags while enroute. They are in a separate baggage car that passengers cannot access.
  6. You CAN access your big bags in the luggage rack in your coach car or sleeping car to retrieve changes of clothing, etc. (according to my Amtrak contact at the Indianapolis station).

Here’s what I found: My two big bags are smaller than Amtrak’s max size. Still, everything mentioned on my checklist above fits into my four bags (except the cooler and feminine hygiene items, which I did not need), and I still have room for more. I’ve done a dry run; I’ve got about 80 pounds total in all four bags (30-30-10-10), nowhere near Amtrak’s weight limit.

amtrak-luggage

Tipping. I found this information by Jim Loomis on trainsandtravel.com: 

As a basic rule of thumb, and assuming courteous, friendly service throughout the trip, I suggest tipping the car attendant no less than $5.00 per passenger per night. In other words, for two people on a two-night trip, whether in a roomette or a bedroom, an appropriate tip would be $20.
Tip the dining car crew the same way you would tip in any restaurant: start with 15% of the menu prices and go up or down from there depending on the quality of the service.
One other thing: some dining car crews pool their tips and others do not. I‘ve developed the habit of asking at my first dining car meal on any Amtrak trip. If the crew pools its tips – and the best crews usually do – I will sometimes give the Lead Service Attendant $20-$30 at the conclusion of my final meal on that trip. Otherwise, I’ll tip after each meal according to the quality of the service.

There’s a wealth of information about Amtrak on their Web site. Look through amtrak.com and blog.amtrak.com to research their site for more information (taking bicycles, musical instruments, skis, weapons, pets, special items, handicap accessibility, and lots more). And for the most comprehensive guide, download the 138-page PDF of the Amtrak System Timetable.

For information about historic Union Station in Indianapolis mentioned in this blog post, listed on the National Register of Historic Places (a pre-Civil War structure dating back to 1853, the oldest Union Station in the world!), visit: https://www.amtrak.com/content/amtrak/en-us/stations/ind.html.

For information about historic Union Station in Chicago mentioned in this blog post, a designated Chicago Landmark, visit: https://www.amtrak.com/stations/chi.html.

A Dozen Parting Thoughts

Here’s what I’ve learned from watching hundreds of YouTube videos and reading TripAdvisor and Pinterest posts:

  1. Published arrival time is a target at best. The train may arrive early or several hours late, so don’t plan a tight schedule. The longer the route, the further behind schedule the train may get. Plan ahead so you don’t miss connecting trains or flights, hotel reservations, scheduled meetings, ticketed events, or dinner reservations at your destination. Friends and relatives can check your ETA using Train Status at the top of the Amtrak Home Page.
  2. I’ve read that the train could possibly run out of food and beverages if you experience a long unscheduled stop or delay. Plan accordingly and hold some snacks in reserve.
  3. If there are long unscheduled delays, Amtrak’s employees may reach their maximum allowable hours in a work day. If so, the train has to stop until a new crew arrives.
  4. Amtrak employees must provide service to many passengers on such a long-distance route (a full coach section on the California Zephyr is around 80 per car, from what I’ve read–and that doesn’t count the sleeper cars). Attendants may not come around to your seat as often as you would like, or may not show up at the drop of a hat if you call. You’re not the only one on the train. Patience!
  5. Amtrak trains may be delayed by freight trains (which have priority), debris blocking the tracks, heavy snow, flooding or other inclement weather, equipment failure, accidents, etc.
  6. With all those passengers (I’m estimating about 250 maximum, and that’s just in the coach cars), dirt and trash can accumulate on a long trip of this nature. Do your part to help keep the train clean. Clean up after yourself!
  7. Occasionally some of the convenience items may not work (power outlets, air conditioning, call buttons, lights, etc.).
  8. I’ve read that it can be noisy on a train even in the middle of the night. Ear plugs and/or ear muffs may help you get some sleep!
  9. The observation car is probably the most popular car on the train. It may be difficult to get a seat in this car, especially during the most scenic portions of the trip. It appears there are about 50 seats in this car; there could easily be 250+ passengers on your train. Be considerate of your fellow passengers and don’t monopolize the seating.
  10. You may encounter noisy kids, crying babies, loud music, unpleasant smells,  attitudes, security issues, quiet hours issues, etc. Sure, you can get up and move around, but remember that you will be in a confined space for many hours with many people, 24/7. Tolerance and civility are admirable qualities! Oh, and smoking is prohibited aboard all Amtrak trains (I’ve read that passengers have been removed from the train for violating this policy).
  11. BUT YOU KNOW ALL THIS IN ADVANCE! It seems to me that some of the negative 1- or 2-star reviews that I read on TripAdvisor can be traced to the passenger’s failure to plan ahead, at least in my opinion. I think some of the tips and little travel items that I’ve mentioned in this blog post might help you avoid certain potential pitfalls and add to the enjoyment of your long-distance trip. So don’t just fill a suitcase and go get on the train. Do your homework! Different trains have different amenities and features.
  12. BOTTOM LINE: Enjoy your ride on the rails! If you are realistic and are simply expecting a L-O-N-G ride on public transportation from Point A to Point B, you’ll be just fine. Relax. Think of it as an adventure! Take good notes and write your own blog about it.

If you can’t tell, this is a major event for me. I want to get it right. I want to be comfortable. I don’t want to smell bad. I don’t want to annoy anyone or make other passengers mad at me. I want to be safe. And I want to have a good time. Who doesn’t? As I mentioned, I’ve been working on this blog post for nearly four months. It will be interesting to see what I think after my trip!

So I hope you found this checklist to be useful. If you’ve traveled by train, did I miss anything important? Or did I say something that is just completely wrong? Add your thoughts or corrections in the comments (moderated and subject to approval).

INDIANA TOURISM ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

Visit Indiana (Mark Newman, Indiana Department of Tourism)
Visit Hendricks County (Josh Duke)
Visit Morgan County (Tosha Daugherty)
Visit Madison (Ann Mulligan, retired)

NOTE: “Amtrak” and all the train names mentioned in this post are registered trademarks of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Other company names and product names mentioned in this post are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

DISCLAIMERS/DISCLOSURES: At this writing I have not traveled on an Amtrak train. This is my independent personal opinion based upon my online research ONLY. Your needs may vary from those on this list. Amtrak, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Home Depot, Ziploc, and any other brand or company names mentioned did not pay me to recommend their merchandise or services, did not give me free merchandise or products, and none of them even know I’m writing this blog post. I do NOT get an affiliate commission for any links you may click in this post. There is no conflict of interest here.

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New @connerprairie in 2018: Fort Hoosier

May 10, 2018 1 comment
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Photo provided by Conner Prairie and used with written permission.

By Duane Brodt
Conner Prairie Interactive History Park

A new nature experience for the wild child in everyone is now open at Conner Prairie.

Fort Hoosier is a 1,000-square-foot addition to Treetop Outpost, a 4-story treehouse filled with interactive, hands-on activities and surrounded by experience areas in which visitors of all ages to build, dig, make music and explore.

Fort Hoosier features climbing walls, a climbing cargo net, passageways, tunnels, balance beams and more.

Treetop Outpost, which opened in 2016, is located in the middle of a Nature Walk that leads visitors through the woods and along the White River to an observation deck that overlooks the prairie.

It is part of the Bicentennial Nature Center Network, a statewide coalition created two years ago to ensure that all Hoosier youth have access to environmental education and creative outdoor experiences within 60 miles of where they live.

Other features of Fort Hoosier, made possible in part by support from Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent, include a signal lamp, which allows visitors to communicate by Morse code to visitors in Treetop Outpost, and a pulley and bucket for transporting items.

Fort Hoosier is included with museum admission.

Conner Prairie is location at 13400 Allisonville Road in Fishers, Indiana. For more information, visit http://connerprairie.org, or call 317-776-6000.

11th Annual Asian Fest, June 24, 2018

May 7, 2018 1 comment
asian-fest

Image provided by the Asian Fest and used with written permission.

By Young Hee Yedinak
On behalf of the Asian Fest

Instead of flying 18 hours to travel to Asia, Hoosiers can experience the many dimensions of Asia in their own backyard. The 11th annual Asian Fest is set for Sunday, June 24, 2018, 12-5 PM, at the Indiana State Museum in downtown Indianapolis. ADMISSION IS FREE.

Each year, Asian Fest spotlights one Asian country, and this year, Burma/Myanmar will take center stage. Indiana has one of the largest Burmese immigrant populations in the U.S. This is an opportunity to learn about this fascinating country and our new neighbors in the Hoosier state. More information at http://www.aaalliance.org/asian-fest

Festival highlights include:
· Entertaining cultural performances from China, India, Japan, Burma/Myanmar and more
· Cultural Discovery of Featured Country – BURMA / MYANMAR
· Traditional Burmese costume fashion show
· Asian cuisine from local restaurants
· Children’s activities
· Asian communities booths
· Asian American Alliance scholarship presentation

Festival goers will receive $5 reduced event parking in the White River State Parks garage.

The 2018 Asian Fest is made possible by these generous sponsors:

Title Sponsors: Barnes and Thornburg, Indianapolis Power & Light, IUPUI

Event Sponsors: Morgan Stanley, Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, Purdue University Asian American & Asian Resource and Cultural Center, Roche, International Center, Indianapolis Foundation, Christel DeHaan Family Foundation

Event Partner: Burmese American Community Institute (BACI)

In-Kind Sponsors: Indiana State Museum, Indy Asian American Times, Asian American Today, Indy Korea

Asian Fest is hosted by Asian American Alliance, Inc., a local, nonprofit, pan-Asian organization whose mission is to empower Asian Americans to serve and lead in businesses and communities. Visit www.aaalliance.orgto learn more.

Hoosier Park 2018 Concert Series @hoosierpark

April 27, 2018 Leave a comment
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Hoosier Park in Anderson, Indiana. (c) AroundIndy.com, LLC. All rights reserved.

By Andy Wilson
On behalf of Hoosier Park

Hoosier Park Racing & Casino in Anderson, Indiana has officially announced its 2018 Epic Summer of Music lineup.

Kicking off on June 23 with Randy Bachman, the series will also feature Martina McBride on July 27, George Thorogood and The Destroyers with Foghat on August 3, and Aaron Lewis on Sept. 2. Tickets go on sale to the public May 4, with a special Club Centaur pre-sale event on May 2.

Advance ticket sales are available to Club Centaur members on May 2 at Hoosier Park and Indiana Grand Racing & Casino box offices located in Shelby’s Gifts. Tickets go on sale to the public on May 4, and are available at respective box offices or through Ticketmaster.

All concerts start just after the end of live racing for the evening, and will take place on Hoosier Park’s outdoor music center stage.

Setting the stage for the summer on June 23, Randy Bachman is the founding member of Bachman Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who. He is known as the most celebrated musician in Canadian history, and is famous for 1970s rock hits like American Womanand Roll On Down the Highway.

Country music singer-songwriter Martina McBride, taking the stage on July 27, has two greatest hits albums and has sold more than 14 million records. Known for hits like Independence Day and My Baby Loves Me, McBride has won Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Yearaward four times and Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Vocalistaward three times.

On August 3, George Thorogood And The Destroyers will perform their high-energy blues and rock show with hits like Bad to the Boneand Who Do You Love. Opening for them are classic rock favorites, Foghat. Thorogood has released more than 20 albums, with two certified as platinum and six certified as gold. In 2014, his band celebrated their 40thanniversary of performing and this year has seen the acclaimed release of George’s first-ever solo album, Party Of Oneon Rounder Records.

Back by popular demand, country music star Aaron Lewis will close out Hoosier Park’s summer concert series on September 2 as a part of a special Labor Day weekend celebration. Well known for his hit single That Ain’t Country, Lewis’s indoor show in October of 2017 at Hoosier Park sold out within an hour of going on sale. Lewis is also well-known as a founding member and lead singer of rock band Staind.

In addition to the ticketed shows this summer, Hoosier Park’s annual Fourth of July celebration will be held on Wednesday, July 4 and will feature live harness racing, a free outdoor concert by The Duke Boys and the largest fireworks show in the Indianapolis area.

“Each and every summer, we work to build a first-class concert lineup offering an entertainment experience that is second to none,” said Centaur Gaming President and COO Jim Brown. “Each of these shows bring a different flavor to the outdoor music center, and we’re looking forward to an epic summer of music with our guests.”

The 2018 Epic Summer of Music Series is presented by American Elevator, Inc., Barcardi, Gigi’s Cupcakes, The Herald Bulletin, Maker’s Mark, Hudson Rentals, Modern Trailer Sales, Piazza Produce & Specialty Foods, and Deem Mechanical and Electrical.

The Hoosier Park outdoor music center accommodates up to 4,500 reserved ticket seats. The music center features a wide variety of ticket options, including premium VIP seating and private party decks complete with personal beverage service.

Hoosier Park is located at 4500 Dan Patch Circle in Anderson, Indiana. More information is available at www.hoosierpark.com.

Celebrities Announced for @500festival Parade, May 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 Leave a comment
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500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana
Photo provided by the 500 Festival and used with written permission.

By Sabrina List
500 Festival

Hollywood stars, musicians, and Hoosier heroes will take to the streets of downtown Indianapolis for the 62nd IPL 500 Festival Parade, scheduled for Saturday, May 26, 2018.

The producers and inspiration of the movie, Rudy, which celebrates its 25th anniversary; Oscar winner, Doug Jones; members of the cast of the movie 12 Strong, joined by Special Forces team members of Task Force Dagger 595, and numerous others are among the first group of announced celebrities and VIPs scheduled to appear in the IPL 500 Festival Parade.

Inspirational advocates for unified sports, Abby Abel and Mitch Bonar will serve as Grand Marshals of the 2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade.

Grammy-winning hip-hop violinist, Miri Ben-Ari and technology dance group, iLuminate will headline the Parade’s opening production.

Also appearing will be the 33 starting drivers of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500®, presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Tickets for the 2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade are available for purchase at 500festival.com/tickets/.

2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the motion picture, Rudy, named one of AFI’s most inspiring movies. To commemorate the milestone, the director and screenwriter of the famous movie and the inspiration behind the film will all join the IPL 500 Festival Parade lineup. 

  • Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger: Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger never gave up on his dream to play football at the University of Notre Dame. The biographical film, Rudy, depicts his merciless journey to football stardom, which defined his “yes I can” mentality. A motivational speaker, Rudy shares his passionate and heartfelt story with others.
  • David Anspaugh: Emmy and Golden Globe-winning director, David Anspaugh was the backbone behind the creation of the inspiration film, Rudy, as well as another beloved sports drama, Hoosiers. A native of Decatur, Indiana, and graduate of Indiana University, Anspaugh’s career also included directing the television shows, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and Miami Vice.
  • Angelo Pizzo: A movie mogul who grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, Angelo Pizzo is famed for writing and producing Rudy as well asHoosiers. Pizzo now resides in Indiana with his family.

12 Strong | Task Force Dagger 595: Cast members from the movie 12 Strong, will be joined by real-life members of Task Force Dagger 595, the first Special Forces Team deployed to Afghanistan after 9/11 and basis of the movie. The list of the brave Green Beret Special Forces members joining this year’s Parade includes: Mark Nutsch, Will Summers, Scott Neil, and Chris Spence.Cast members appearing in the IPL 500 Festival Parade include:

  • Geoff Stults: Actor Geoff Stults played the character Sean Coffers in the movie, 12 Strong. He also acted in the long running TV show,7th Heaven, as well as The Odd Couple and Grace and Frankie.
  • Kenny Sheard: After 12+ years in the U.S. Navy, Kenny Sheard transitioned to the reserves and focused on developing skills that would become an essential foundation for his career as an actor and stuntman. Sheared played the character Bill Bennett in 12 Strong. He’s worked in numerous other high-profile films and television series including Transformers: Age of Extinction, 13 Hours and John Wick: Chapter 2.

Doug Jones: Actor Doug Jones captured the attention of critics with his portrayal of Amphibian Man, the creature at the center of the film, The Shape of Water, an Oscar-winner for Best Motion Picture. Jones’ 30+ year career includes more than 150 productions in film and TV, including playing the role of The Fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth, the title character in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus, as well as his current starring role as Saru in the CBS All Access series, Star Trek: Discovery. Jones is a graduate of Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis and a Ball State University alum.

Jim Cornelison: Best known as the powerful and exclusive voice behind “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Chicago Blackhawks’ home games, Jim Cornelison thrilled hundreds of thousands of fans with his performance of “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500. He’ll appear in the IPL 500 Festival Parade before performing the iconic song once again at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Zachary Spicer: Zachary Spicer is an actor, producer, and the CEO of Pigasus Pictures. He recently starred in the movie The Good Catholic. He’s also known for his role in the Netflix Original Series Master of None, and has appeared in television series including, Gotham, Blue Bloods, and Law & Order SVU. Spicer is an Indiana native and an Indiana University alum.

John Armstrong: John Armstrong is an actor, producer, and COO of Pigasus Pictures, an Indiana-based film production company. A native of Indiana and Indiana University alum, Armstrong produced the movie The Good Catholic, starring Danny Glover and John McGinley as well as the upcoming feature titled, Ms. White Light, starring Tony Award-winning actress Judith Light.

Kristin and Danny Adams: Kristin and Danny Adams are YouTube sensations whose online videos have amassed more than 300 million views. They became famous after a funny lip-sync video went viral in 2016. Kristin, a former television host, and Danny, a former actor, comedian and stunt man, met in Los Angeles before returning to Danny’s hometown of Indianapolis in 2008.

2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade Headline Entertainment

Miri Ben-Ari: Miri Ben-Ari is a Grammy Award-Winning violinist, producer, and humanitarian, a “UN Goodwill Ambassador of Music” to the United Nations. Originally from Israel, she has created her own unique music; a revolutionary fusion of classical, Hip-Hop, soul and dance. A classically trained violinist who once studied under the late classical master Isaac Stern, Ben-Ari has helped sell millions of records by collaborating with other Grammy award-winning artists such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Wynton Marsalis, Britney Spears, Maroon 5, Akon, Patti Labelle, Brandy, Donna Summer, Janet Jackson, John Legend, Aventura, and Armin Van Buuren.

iLuminate: iLuminate is an entertainment technology dance group that combines state-of-the-art technology with electrifying entertainers who perform in the dark to create the ultimate performing arts experience. The group’s lighting effects and choreographed performances take viewers on an exhilarating ride. Once called “the best new act in America” during their run on America’s Got Talent, they’ve also performed alongside Grammy-winning superstars like Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta, and more. The group has been featured on Dancing with the Stars, X Factor, American Music Awards, MTV, BET, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and more. 

One of the original 500 Festival events, the IPL 500 Festival Parade is one of the nation’s largest, most respected parades, consistently earning national acclaim alongside the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 300,000 people will line the streets of downtown Indianapolis to experience the larger-than-life floats, giant helium balloons, celebrities, award-winning bands, and all 33 drivers competing in the 102nd running of the Indy 500.

The 2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade will be themed, Illuminate. Innovate. Indianapolis. Every May, the world turns its focus on Indianapolis. Beaming with civic pride and radiating a racing spirit, together we can present a city that shines bright at the forefront of a cutting edge world. This May, our community and guests will come together to illuminate the history, tradition, and sacrifices of our heroes on Memorial Day Weekend, while looking forward and saluting Indy’s commitment to innovate the world around us. So let’s turn the lights up high, point the camera on Indy, and take action for the 102nd Running of the Indy 500. Illuminate. Innovate. Indianapolis.   

The 2018 IPL 500 Festival Parade will take place on Saturday, May 26, 2018. Parade festivities will start at 11:45 am ET in downtown Indianapolis. IPL 500 Festival Parade tickets start at $10 and can be purchased at 500festival.com/tickets, by calling (317) 614-6400, or at the 500 Festival Ticket Office, located at 21 Virginia Ave. in Downtown Indianapolis. The Ticket Office is open on weekdays from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm.

The IPL 500 Festival Parade will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports and to the Indianapolis market on WTHR, Channel 13. For more information about the IPL 500 Festival Parade, please visit 500festival.com/parade or search #IPL500Parade on social media.