Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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Westside

May 21, 2013

Annual tortoise race returns to zoo

INDIANAPOLIS — On your mark. Get set. Slow! The 33rd running of Zoopolis 500 presented by the American Dairy Association is May 22 at the Indianapolis Zoo. Considered the “Greatest Spectacle in Tortoise Racing,” this event is one of the zoo’s most popular and longest running traditions.

Zoopolis 500 is the zoo’s version of the Indianapolis 500, and it regularly draws thousands of local fans along with international media attention. This beloved event features the “racing” radiated tortoises as well as some of the stars of the Izod IndyCar Series like former Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champ Tony Kanaan, who will serve as the honorary race steward, and longtime Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief announcer Mike King, who will call all the race action.

The faced-paced fun gets under way 10:30 a.m. at the Entry Plaza, where guests can meet the 500 Festival Princesses and get pictures with a 500 Festival Pace Car. Guests can also get a chug of Dean’s milk (while supplies last), meet zoo mascots and try the Pit-Stop Challenge. Pre-race analysis then begins 11 a.m. at Dean’s Arena as King and Kanaan take center stage along with Zookeeper Jon Pilarski, who will share some expert insights before the main event.

At 11:30 a.m., Kanaan will kick off the parade around Dean’s Arena, which also includes 500 Festival Princesses, the Dairy Princess, American Dairy Association mascot Buttercup, mascots, and the racing tortoises. Following the parade, Kanaan will drop the green flag on the feature race and guests can cheer for their favorite tortoise as they “speed” toward the finish line and a tray of delicious fruits waiting in the winner’s circle. Just like the Indy 500, the winning “pit crew” will enjoy icy cold bottles of milk at the finish, provided by the American Dairy Association.

Following the race, guests are invited to meet the winning tortoise and his crew — zookeepers who can answer tortoise-related questions and tell guests all about the zoo’s efforts to help these critically endangered animals.

All of the race-day activities are free with zoo admission. For more information about Zoopolis 500, visit the website IndianapoliZoo.com.

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