What does one former President of the United States, three South American Ambassadors, a General, a race champion, a POW Korean War Ace, Medal of Honor Recipients, Public Safety Agencies, Governors, Astronauts, film greats and even Mickey Mouse have in common? Well the answer is that over the years each has starred in the 500 Festival Parade as a grand marshal.
For the very first parade, Lt. General H.W. Arnold, USA, did the honors, Jimmy Stewart in 1965 and Walter Cronkite in 1966. It was a "Bonanza" year in 1967 when Lorne Green, Dan Blocker, and Michael Landon formed a grand marshal trio. The next year (1968) there were three Ambassadors from South of the Border and the charming Edie Adams was grand marshal for 1970.
Colonel James Kasler thrilled the crowds as parade grand marshal in 1973. To the delight of his family and everyone else, "Jim Kasler" was "back Home Again in Indiana," after being returned from prisoner of war camp in North Korea. All returned POW’s from Indiana were honored parade guests that year.
Mickey Mouse was a solo grand marshal in 1974. Not until the 1985 parade did Mickey bring Minnie and 60 other Disney characters along when he was grand marshal. Mickey and Minnie appeared once again as Grand Marshals in 1992.
Grand marshal Peter de Paolo brought back memories in 1975 of his breaking the 100mph speed record 50 years before. In 1976 Tony Hulman, then President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, shared the spotlight with his friend, Bob Hope. The three 4-time winners of the Indianapolis 500- Al Unser, Rick Mears, and A.J. Foyt were grand marshals in 1995.
Former President Gerald R. Ford was a stunning crowd pleaser as 1979’s grand marshal. In 1983 the 500 Festival reached into space for Astronaut Joe Allen as the grand marshal. And something for the girls in 1984- David Hasselhoff of "Knight Rider" fame.
1999 was a touching year, honoring nearly 100 Medal of Honor Recipients as the grand marshals of the parade. And in 2001 a very special set of grand marshals, the Public Safety Agencies of Indianapolis. In 2004, Indiana’s own Jane Pauley returned to the Hoosier state to serve as the 500 Festival grand marshal.
Over the years these military leaders and popular celebrities have served dutifully as our parade grand marshals. We salute them all in return.
List of Past Grand Marshals
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