Before I begin, I hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend no matter what your plans are. For me, I look forward to watching the 92nd running of one of the greatest spectacles in motor racing - the Indianapolis 500.
As a native of Indianapolis, Ind., I will never escape the feeling of excitement and anticipation when it comes to this event. It is not something that you automatically develop over time, but if you are from Indiana you were born with it.
When I was younger my mother and father used to take my brother and me to the Indy 500 festival parades each Saturday before the race during the Memorial Day weekend.
My fondest memories include the rush of watching the beautiful floats, the high school and college marching bands playing music and all of the cool axillaries, like the Indianapolis Shrine's Clown Corps and the Indianapolis Police Department motorcycle and horse brigade demonstrating their trademark maneuvers.
Toward the very end of the parade, I watched as all of the qualified drivers for the race drove through downtown Indianapolis with their families in the latest Indy 500 pace car waving to all the spectators.
During my first parade, I remember the crowd going crazy after the announcer called the names of A.J. Foyt, Mike Donahue, Gordon Johncock, Al and Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti.
At the time, I was far too young to know who they were; however, years later I came to realize these men were past Indy 500 winners.
My family couldn't afford to attend the race, so we would host a barbecue and invite all of our relatives and friends over to watch it on television.
As we sat there, I recall listening for the first time Jim Nabors singing in his booming baritone voice "Back Home to Indiana" as the Purdue University Marching Band accompanied him.
And I vividly remember hearing the late Mary Fendrich Hulman utter those four famous words: "Gentlemen, start your engines!"
Though I haven't been back to Indiana since 2001, I will never forget the rush regarding the Indianapolis 500. Admittedly, I miss being in the midst of all that excitement.
Living in the south, I understand that NASCAR is king, but over the years the luster has slowly vanished into the vortex of commercialism and corporate sponsorship.
Not to say that the Indy 500 is following down the same path - the difference is that the Indy 500 has maintained some of its traditions that cannot be brought about by corporate America.
As a fellow "Hoosier," I now have a better understanding of what the Indianapolis 500 is all about; it commemorates the idea of unity and fellowship within the community, which has been the cornerstone since its conception in 1911 on Memorial Day.
Rightfully so, it is imperative that the Indy 500 continues to commemorate the sacrifice our armed forces have made to serve and protect this country.
So, this time of year when I go back to Indiana I plan to soak in the nostalgia of it all, particularly what it gave me during my childhood.
Those days are long gone, but they will forever be a part of me for as long as I live.
And you can always go back to enjoy something as great as that.
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