Former race car driver Merle Bettenhausen will serve as the grand marshal in New Haven’s 500 parade April 28.
Bettenhausen will meet and greet the crowd and conduct an autograph session in Schnelker Park after the 11 a.m. parade. Bettenhausen’s father was Indianapolis 500 and sprint car legend Tony Bettenhausen, and his brother was former champion car team owner, Tony Bettenhausen Jr. Merle Bettenhausen was badly injured in a racing accident early in his career.
The event is part of the city’s participation in the Back Home Again in Indiana community decoration contest, commemorating the Indianapolis 500 race. More than 200 cities and towns entered the contest last year, with New Haven chosen as one of the top ten finalists. The winner was Brownstown.
The decoration contest is judged by a celebrity panel that includes Indianapolis 500 drivers and Hoosier celebrities. The winner receives $20,000 from the Indiana Motor Speedway to use on a community project.
New Haven officials hope to win and use the prize money to complete the Veterans’ Memorial in Schnelker Memorial Park.
Opening ceremonies will include a special military tribute by Col. David Augustine, commander of the 122nd Fighter Wing, the presentation of flags by the Air Force Honor Guard and a military flyover. New Haven Mayor Terry McDonald will then wave the green flag and start the parade at the corner of Broadway and Main streets.
In addition to Bettenhausen, the parade will feature classic Indy race cars including Arie Luyendyk’s car, a 1961 roadster and many more vintage vehicles.
Spectators are encouraged to wave checkered flags during the parade, which will be videotaped as part of the contest entry.
Other events include a car show and cornhole tournament. All proceeds from the day’s events will go toward the Veterans Memorial