Small town princess headed to the Indy 500, shows off pace car

500 Festival Princess Shelby Bradford poses with her Indy 500 pace car, a blue Chevy Camaro.

WARREN, Ind. (WANE) – A young Warren woman has been selected as a 2016 500 Festival Princess and will ride in a pace car in the pre-race ceremonies at the 100th Indy 500 on May 29. Shelby Bradford toured her pace car through her hometown Sunday to celebrate.

The 500 Festival Princess program chooses 33 young, civic-minded, poised and academically driven women leaders to serve as ambassadors for the 500 festival. The 500 Festival celebrates the spirit, heritage and legacy of the Indy 500.

Shelby said she has wanted to be a 500 Festival princess since she was 5-years-old when her father took her to the Indy 500 for the first time.

“My dad was looking out at the track with me and I was looking at the princesses go by and I said, ‘Dad, I want to be a princess some day’ and he said, ‘Shelby you can be whatever you want to be. If you want to be a princess, you can be a princess.'”

Shelby has been to every Indy 500 since then, but this year she’ll be attending it as a princess.

Shelby is 1 of 33 500 Festival princesses around Indiana. The senior IUPUI nursing student is representing the town of Warren, home of about 1,230 people.

“Coming from a small town, it means a lot,” said Bill Bradford, Shelby’s father. “A lot of the girls are from Indianapolis and places, the bigger cities. So her being from Warren, Indiana, It makes it kind of special.”

Shelby’s new found royalty has made her an ambassador for the annual festival and given her the opportunity to help communities all over the state. She is using her platform to engage in at least 14 community outreaches, ranging from volunteering at the Salamonie School school carnival to speaking about inner beauty at a ‘Growing Confidence Day’ event.

500 Festival Princess Shelby Bradford poses with her Indy 500 pace car, a blue Chevy Camaro.
500 Festival Princess Shelby Bradford poses with her Indy 500 pace car, a blue Chevy Camaro.

On May 29, she and the other princesses will ride in pace cars around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway right before the start of the big race. They will be driven by one of the 33 members of the 500 Festival board of directors. Shelby showed off her pace car at a couple of spots around the Warren community. Dozens came to see the blue Chevy Camaro and take pictures with Shelby.

“Why not achieve my goals and achieve my dream and take a shot at it,” Shelby said. “Now my 17th Indy 500 will be spent in a different way. I’ll be riding around the track in a pace car before the race in the pre-race ceremonies and my dad will be watching from the stands. It’s going to be 17 years and coming of a dream that is finally in fruition.”

The 33 princesses are what remains of a competitive process that included rounds of day-long interviews. They will go through an impromptu question session and another round of interviews to compete for the title of 500 Festival Queen. The queen will be crowned May 21 and hold that position for a year.

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