Thanks to Jon Berg, a Historic Indianapolis reader, who shared this photograph at the Indiana Album Scan-a-Thon at the Harrison Center for the Arts earlier this month.

The caption for this parade image reveals that it was taken on May 29, 1957 for the first Indianapolis 500 Festival.  A band marches east on West Market Street toward Monument Circle. Parade viewers are lined up ten deep in front of Hooks Drugs, G. C. Murphy Co., and Holland’s Cocktail Lounge. (Indiana Album, United Press Telephoto dated May 1957, loaned by Jon Berg)

A brief history of the 500 Festival is located at

In 1957, four Indianapolis businessmen got together and organized a parade and square dance gala, celebrating the Indianapolis 500. The men who set the framework for what is now one of the largest festivals in the nation are former Indianapolis Mayor Alex Clark; Joe Quinn, Safety Director for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; J. Worth Baker, Shrine Potentate in 1957 and Howard Wilcox, promotions director for the Indianapolis Star. The parade was the 500 Festival’s first event back in 1957.  More than 150,000 spectators lined the parade route. All 9,000 reserved chair seats were full. Just as today, the Boy Scouts handled seating. Indiana Power and Light had a float in that parade, and it has continued to participate in the parade ever since then. Later that evening, over 500 people danced to Woody Herman’s Orchestra on the fifth floor of the Indiana Roof Ballroom for the Governor’s Ball.  Tickets to the gala were $5.00 a couple. Over fifty years later this event continues on under the name Snakepit Ball.


The same view was photographed 52 years later by one of Google’s Street View cars. On the left is the WellPoint headquarters, which replaced the J. C. Penney building seen in the 1957 view. The Test Building, the Indiana limestone structure on the right, was completed in 1925 as a mixed-used commercial space and garage.  (Google Street View, July 2009)

[Would you like to see your old photographs featured in this Then and Now column? If so, attach a high resolution jpeg or png and any details about the building within our “Say Hi” link in the footer of our website.]



4 responses to “Indianapolis Then and Now: West Market Street and the 500 Festival Parade”

  1. MetroCard says:

    Actually, Wellpoint occupies the former Penney’s building; the facade was re-cladded in the 1980s.

  2. Jeff Downer Indianapolis, IN says:

    Whatever happened to the square dance? lol

  3. Gloria Eley says:

    I went to the 500 Festival Parade with my family when I was a little girl. In later years I volunteered for the 500 Festival Parade as a band usher. I ushered the Indianapolis Public Schools All City Band (with other volunteers), and one of the high schools was Crispus Attucks High School (i graduated Class of 1971). I also volunteered for the Mini Marathon and Kids’ Day activities. I am looking forward to activities coming back in person after the Covid-19 pandemic.

  4. Gloria Eley says:

    I volunteered for the 500 Festival.

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