Princesses drive toward their happily ever after


Four Butler students will spend the next few months serving as ambassadors for the city of Indianapolis and its events, advocating volunteerism and involvement.

These students were chosen to represent their hometowns of Indiana, and the state as a whole, based on their involvement, passions and personalities. On top of this, they have the chance to earn scholarship money and connect with local business professionals.

However, these ambassadors go by a different title: ‘Princess.’

The 33 college-age women chosen to be this year’s 500 Festival Princesses were chosen based on their qualifications and involvement, according the Indy 500 Festival’s website.

Under “requirements,” it is listed that “all candidates possess the qualities of volunteerism, (teamwork), maturity and responsibility…poise and professionalism, academic achievement, (good work ethic), patience, sense of humor, energy and unselfishness.”

Additionally, to apply for the 500 Festival Princess Program, candidates must be  residents of Indiana and full-time students in the state of Indiana, maintain at least a 2.8 grade point average, be involved in at least one college extra-curricular activity, provide references and be in good standing with their universities.

Nowhere on the 500 Festival website is there any mention of height, weight, dress size or even physical beauty.

“This is not a beauty pageant,” said Alyssa Dyke, a Butler sophomore and 500 Festival Princess. “Really we’re more of ambassadors, and it’s a chance to be a part of something that is so iconically Indianapolis.”

All four Butler students chosen to be 500 Festival Princesses said they had never been involved in, or even very interested in, beauty pageants.

“I have nothing against beauty pageants, but I have never had the desire to be in one,” senior and 500 Festival Princess Caroline Kirkwood said. “I don’t think that I would be able to showcase my personality and strengths in a beauty pageant setting.”

Kirkwood said she thinks the Princess Program is meant to highlight inner beauty.

“It might sound cliché, but this is really something that highlights character and the kind of person you are,” Kirkwood said.

Sophomore Liz Mertz, another 500 Festival Princess from Butler, said she had no idea what to expect from the interview process for the Princess Program and chose to just be herself.

“I went in almost anticipating the ‘peace on earth’ type of questions during the interviews, but that wasn’t how it was,” Mertz said. “I just spoke from the heart about the things I was passionate about and my involvement—really it was a fun interview.”

Another aspect of the Princess Program is the networking and mentoring aspect where each princess is paired with a business professional working in a field corresponding with her academic major or career goals.

Butler junior and 500 Festival Princess Steph Wolfred is a strategic communication major with the desire to work in retail. She said she thinks her pairing with a store operations manager at Finish Line will translate well to her future career goals.

“While I think I would like to continue to work in retail, I think it will be great to have someone to learn from on how to grow,” Wolfred said.

All princesses will participate in outreach initiatives leading up to the 500 Festival. Dyke, Kirkwood, Mertz and Wolfred said they all plan to do some type of outreach in their hometowns or former schools.

“I want to let some of these kids know that they don’t have to stay in Knox County for their whole life,” Kirkwood said. “You really can get out and make a difference.”

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Dyke said she believes the outreach is crucial to the actual operation of the festival and Indy 500 race.

“So much of this event is dependent on volunteer work,” Dyke said. “I don’t think people realize how much goes on and how much people can do, no matter who they are. And every little bit helps, because this whole week really wouldn’t happen without volunteers.”

Of the 33 Princesses chosen for this year’s 500 Festival, one will be chosen to be this year’s 500 Festival Queen. The chosen queen, to be announced in May, will be awarded a $2,500 college scholarship.

The 33 princesses have already gone through orientation together and will also attend the Princess Program reception, the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon and 5K, Kids’ Day, Volunteer Appreciation Day, the 500 Festival and the Indianapolis 500 itself.

Wolfred said she has enjoyed getting to know the other princesses from various cities and towns in Indiana.

“I never realized how many farm towns there really are in Indiana before this,” Wolfred said. “There are so many girls in the Princess Program who insist that they are from towns that are literally just made of farms. One girl even described herself as a country bumpkin.”

Wolfred said she thinks the girls in the programs are unique but all beautiful.

“It’s amazing, I look around and think ‘Wow, every one of these girls is so gorgeous,’” Wolfred said. “We’re all individuals, but everyone is still so beautiful in their own way.”

Mertz said she would encourage any fellow Hoosier to apply for the Princess Program if interested.

“It’s really about being yourself and sharing your passion for the community,” Mertz said. “The key is to be yourself, and if you don’t get it the first time to just try again. One girl tried out three times before she got in and then she ended up being queen, so you never know what can happen.”