Indy 500 balloon release is the most colorful and exciting part of the race that comes after the “Back Home Again in Indiana” tradition.
Before the race starts, we are greeted with hundreds, or it might even be thousands of the different colored balloons that are released into the air.
The tradition started in 1947 when Mary Fendich Hulman, the wife of the race track owner, Tony Hulman, came up with the idea of balloons release.
There have been many controversies as to why the balloon release should not take place. In 2019, we saw several organizations and individuals pressuring the IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) to abandon the tradition.
Cases sent to the IMS to abandon Indy 500 balloon release
The primary stakeholder against the balloon release is the Balloons Blow Website, which claims that a lot of animals have died as a result of the balloons.
They argued that an animal could get caught in the balloon while feeding, and this can distract the normal functions of the digestive tract. Also, balloons can affect the migration patterns of local birds, and with no time, this can make them extinct.
Danielle Vosburgh, the co-founder of Balloons Blow, has her say.
“It seemed like the emails and the phone calls and social media posts weren’t getting their attention,”
Vosburgh argued that once the balloons are released into the air, they still come down to earth as any other litter that needs to be disposed of.
She added that:
“We need to dispose of our garbage properly; you wouldn’t throw balloons on the ground, so why would you let them into the air where they’re going to land somewhere else?”
IMS response to the balloon release
Doug Boles, IMS President, announced before the 2019 Indy 500 that the tradition of balloon release would go on to remain a part of the race.
However, Alex Damron, IMS Spokesperson, later on, stated that they are yet to execute any feedback concerning the issue of balloon release as a deteriorating factor to the environment.
Here is what Damron had to say:
“We’re reaching out to several stakeholders and talking with experts to fully understand the impact of this practice and determine its status in the years ahead.”
Experts saying at the Indy 500 balloon release
Critics argue that the balloons that fall down the earth pose a significant danger, especially to wildlife and marine species, since it takes a lot of time for them to break down.
Emma Nelson, a biologist from Fish and Wildlife Service (USA), stated that most marine species mistake balloons for food and the animals could either starve with a belly full of plastic or suffocate to death.
Another expert is Katie Register, an executive director at Clean Virginia Waterways, who was against balloon littering.
Register stated that:
“Whether something is biodegradable or not, we have to stop littering, and balloon releases are balloon littering events.”
After the 2019 balloon release from the Twitter video, the IMS has been the subject of criticism and complaints. We are yet to see whether the Indy 500 balloon release tradition will still continue in 2020.