The penultimate culmination of a 37-day journey took place Oct. 15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay made the first stop of its last day across the state.
After traveling through 92 counties, visiting 260 cities and towns as well as 17 state and national parks, nine lakes and rivers, 22 colleges and universities and 27 national, state and local sites of historic significance that comprised 3,226.35 miles, the torch was able to take a load off for a morning ride around the track.
The leisurely drive was facilitated by Sarah Fisher, former IndyCar driver and team owner, who drove the torch around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a pace of 120 mph.
Fans from the Town of Speedway and the surrounding area attended, eager to see the torch race into history.
The torch lighting ceremony took place at the Victory Podium.
The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay was developed by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) to inspire and unify Hoosiers as one of the major commemorative events of the 2016 Bicentennial celebration.
"The Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay was one event, with hundreds of special moments, carried out by thousands of Hoosiers from all walks of life," Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb said. "As we conclude this unifying celebration of Indiana's first 200 years, we pass the torch and begin writing the next chapter of Indiana's story.”
After gathering momentum at the IMS, the torch then took to the streets of Indianapolis. It passed by Robert Indiana’s original LOVE sculpture, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, the historic Madame Walker Theatre, the Indiana War Memorial and many other points of historic significance.
In a sea of Hoosiers, distinguished guests and many torchbearers, the torch eventually arrived at the Indiana Statehouse grounds on the Robert Orr Plaza, escorted by Indiana State Police, the Bicentennial Torch Relay team and Sarah Fisher in her specially decorated, bicentennial two-seater IndyCar.
“It was a great way to kick off the last day,” IMS Media Relations Manager Suzi Elliot said.
Three torchbearers walked the torch to the cauldron on stage, symbolizing how the flame of the torch was preserved since it was first lit in Corydon on Sept. 9.
A choir, dancers and gymnasts performed as the everlasting light for Indiana was illuminated in one of the two dedicated public art pieces, called Lux Aeterna (Eternal Light), by New York artist Osman Akan. The sculpture is part of the new Bicentennial Plaza on the west side of the statehouse grounds. The everlasting light will serve as a homage to the state's first 200 years and an inspiration for generations of Hoosiers to come. It is resistant to harsh weather conditions, accessible to all, and will remain illuminated 365 days per year.
“I hope that when people visit this place and gaze upon this lovely sculpture with its everlasting light for Indiana, they reflect on our state's proud place in history and imagine boldly its future,” said Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Department.