IMS: Indy 500 balloon release suspended “indefinitely”

INDIANAPOLIS — There will be no balloon releases at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 106th Indianapolis 500.

This decision was confirmed by IMS President Doug Boles and IMS Vice President of Communications Alex Damron. Damron says the balloon release is “suspended indefinitely” and confirmed environmental concerns “have been considered in the decision.”

“We have listened to the concerns of a number of groups, individuals and fans over the past few years and appreciate the feedback we have received,” Damron said via email.

In lieu of a balloon release this year, IMS says there will be a second pre-race flyby conducted at the end of the “Back Home Again in Indiana” performance.

IMS released a statement saying in part:

“The primary goal of our pre-race show is to bring people together as we honor our military heroes, celebrate sporting excellence and build the level of excitement and anticipation as we prepare for command. While we understand the historical connection between the balloon release and many of our fans, we have put it on hold for the time being and will continue to evaluate the best opportunities to celebrate the unique heritage and traditions of our event in the future. We are confident that this year’s pre-race activities will be as exciting and festive as any we have had at IMS.

The balloon release was last carried out in 2019.

According to a FOX59 report on a 2019 IndyStar surveyIMS officials said the thousands of balloons launched at previous Indy 500s were biodegradable.

A journalist tested balloons similar to those used by IMS and tracked their progress over 11 months. She found that when exposed to bacteria, the balloons “degrade unlike plastic.”

The balloon release has been heavily criticized by groups like the Indiana Audobon Society, who say balloon debris is a hazard to birds, fish and other animals. They say the animals can be strangled by the balloons and can be seriously injured or even die if the balloons are ingested.

In 2019, a billboard was temporarily placed near the IMS at Speedway that read “BALLOONS POLLUTE AND KILL. #StopLitteringIMS.

The release of balloons before the race dates back to 1947.

The 106th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29.