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Traditional balloon release removed from pre-race festivities for Indy 500

The balloon release at the track has been a part of race day since 1947.

INDIANAPOLIS — For the third consecutive year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has removed the traditional balloon release from its pre-race festivities for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Alex Damron, vice president of corporate communications for IMS, confirmed the cancellation to 13News.

"Like in 2020, and 2021, we will take advantage of the operational flexibility this decision provides and will continue adding a second flyover to the pre-race show at the conclusion of 'Back Home Again,'" Damron said.

The balloon release at the track has been a part of race day since 1947.

"While we understand the historical connection of the balloon release to many of our fans, we have paused it for now and will continue to evaluate the best opportunities to celebrate our event’s unique legacy and traditions moving forward," Damron said.

In 2019, balloonsblow.org, co-founded by Danielle Vosburgh, paid for a billboard at 16th and Harding streets with a grant from "The Fund For Wild Nature" to try to stop balloon releases nationwide because of environmental concerns.

"BALLOONS POLUTE AND KILL. #StopLitteringIMS," read the billboard, with the organization's website at the bottom.

"They're beautiful for a couple seconds, but then we just have to think beyond our fingertips," Vosburgh told 13News in 2019. "What goes up must come down, and even though they might not be landing right near the IMS as litter, they're being found over 100 miles away. One was found in Ohio. Balloons are a threat to animals on land and sea, wild and domestic: cows, horses, cats, dogs. They are eating them and dying, too."

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Damron told 13News the staffing required and space needed for the balloon tent will now be used for team and series partner fan activations, which will make the infield midway "more robust" for those visiting IMS in May.

"We are confident that this year’s pre-race activities will be as exciting and celebratory as any we have had at IMS," Damron said.

Tickets are still available for the Indy 500, which takes place Sunday, May 29.

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