The 500 Festival met with August "Augie" A. Ebeling, a longtime volunteer of the 500 Festival for a Q&A session in regard to him being named the Grand Marshal for the 2022 AES 500 Festival Parade.
In 2016, August was named the 500 Festival Volunteer of the Year for his dedication and generous donation of his time and talent in assisting the 500 Festival to produce life-enriching events and programs that celebrate an impactful, community led-road to the Indianapolis 500. August's commitment to service and passion for the 500 Festival has made a profound impact on the 500 Festival & Indianapolis 500 Education Program, presented by Indiana University Health. His willingness to go above and beyond led to the development of the Need for Speed Station, which was voted the #1 rated Study Trip Station by teachers, students, the 500 Festival Princesses, and volunteers.
Please read on to hear his history with the 500 Festival and Indianapolis 500, the local community, and what this accolade means to him.
Q: What is your history with the 500 Festival's Education Program?
August: I started with the education program in 2004 because of a comment by an Eli Lilly coworker. I started with the Flag Station. I was learning things that I was teaching the 4th graders. I was fortunate enough to ask my fellow volunteers access to their teaching station. I got access to the Pagoda and Victory Circle and the Speedway Museum. I was learning so much about the Speedway and its history and how the cars work. It started to get mind going, how can I pass along the generation things to the 4th graders. I would transfer to Indy car how it works station. Unfortunately I could not be there for every station teaching, this was because of my job at Eli Lilly which was part of the Trulicity team making the clinical trials drug overseas. We would have a team that would teach the 4th graders. That team was awesome and we sync together. We offer different ways to teach things about how the race car works, and we combine all of thoughts. That experience would lead me to write the STEM station. I would be honored for my efforts and time that I invested in the station. I would be presented with 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award. An award presented to single volunteer out a group of 7000 volunteers. My interview on channel 13 would raise my accomplishment to a new level. The fact that my father would see my interview before he died was just stellar. Another thing to come from my interview would be awesome to me and the 4th graders. A man named Chris Morris would see my interview and volunteer for the Education Program because of what I said. That would be awesome to me. I would be honored again by being named the Grand Marshal of the 500 Festival Parade. To represent all the volunteers, past, present, and future was such an awesome honor. To be the representative of all the accomplishments of all the volunteers is such a honor and such an personal accomplishment!
“I am so honored to be the Grand Marshal of the 500 Festival Parade! To represent all the volunteers and staff for their passionate work with the 500 Festival events, like the Education Program, Mini-Marathon, and the Parade, past, present, and the future is such an awesome honor. Just to be open, I will be in a wheelchair when you see me because of my presumptive diagnosis of ALS. The Month of May is also ALS Awareness month.”
— August A. Ebeling
Q: What is your family history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
August: My mother got tickets for herself and her dad in 1951, from Tony Hulman, who owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the time. The connection with Roger Penske would start with the 1951 Indy 500, his first. My father, who was a mechanical engineer who graduated from Rose Hulman Engineering School, would be my motivation about the Indy 500. My mother and two older sisters would be a motivation also, but not like my father. My father would to 65 consecutive Indy 500s before he died in June of 2017. He would miss the 2017 Indy 500 because of his medical condition. My father would get me behind the scenes, like the garage area and the press room and timing and scoring room. As the result of his input on mechanics of a race car, when I was old enough to so, I would change the oil in our cars and get the fluids to the correct levels. When my family moved to Reading, Pennsylvania in the 70s, the Roger Penske connection would take the next step. River Road would be Penskes first indy car shop. I was in high school and we would hear a lot of news during the month of May. We heard a lot for the race at Pocono and Trenton.
Q: What is your history with the Indianapolis 500?
August: My first Indy 500 was in 1968, when Bobby Unser won the race and the cars that stood out was the day glo red wedge shape turbine race car. I was hoping to see race car driver Jim Clark, unfortunately, he was killed in a race car accident in April before the Indy 500. My history with the Speedway has begun. I would drive from Elmhurst, Illinois and take commercial flights from Reading, Pennsylvania and drive down from Macomb, Illinois and Wheeling, Illinois, and Palatine, Illinois. I finally moved to Carmel, Indiana, and Plainfield, Indiana. This will be my 54th consecutive Indy 500. I even went outside the track in the short shut between turn 1 and 2 in my wheelchair during the pandemic. I have sat with my parents and father and my college best friend. I have view the race from across the exit of pit lane and the entry to turn 1 and the exit to turn 4 from the outside of the track and from the exit from turn 3 from the outside the track and the exit of pit lane from inside the track. I would be a member of Downforce where I access to many drivers and speakers who would speak about the Indy 500, Donald Davidson. Downforce would eventually be Indy Car Nation which I am a member also. My memberships in the clubs and my father and my time with the 500 Festival Volunteer Program would give me access to behind the scenes of the Speedway. I got to take so many photos of drivers and cars and celebrities and friends was awesome. To get some of photos autographed by the drivers is also awesome. The month of May would become a traditional thing for me!
Q: We understand May is ALS Awareness Month. Can you tell us more about this?
August: ALS is a neurological disease that has no definitive test to get a diagnosis. Diagnosis is done by checking off other things and observations. There are numerous tests that you go through. Be aware that you have to keep track of your other medical conditions. ALS awareness month color is red. That is why I am wearing a red shirt for the parade. To lose your abilities to walk and move your arms and to speak is taxing for you and your significant other. Hopefully your family can take some of the pressure off you. There is a lot of technology to help you and you have to be accommodate. There is a lot of organizations that will work with you. It is a life journey and you need inspiration to keep fighting your medical condition. Here is my inspirational song to keep fighting my medical condition.
Q: You've been diagnosed with ALS, what is your ability to communicate?
August: Just to be open to you, these replies were written on a speech assistance device (tablet) in eye gaze mode. This particular device is made by Control Bionics, which includes a Nero node. The Nero node can select a letter or word to take stress off your eyes or cannot scan your eyes and can still see.
Q: We heard there is one song that you've turned to during your diagnosis. What song is that?
August: Perfect Harmony Eye of the Tiger mash-up. This song was played as I rode by on the float in the parade.
We have been so honored to have August A. Ebeling as our Grand Marshal and can't think of anyone else more deserving as the return of in-person events have reinforced that volunteers are essential to making these events possible. It is with great pride that the 500 Festival recognizes August and his service to the 500 Festival, the Indianapolis community, and the state of Indiana.