NEW PALESTINE — Grinning ear to ear, Audra Bloomer climbed into the blue Chevrolet Camaro convertible.
As her classmates watched with envy, the fourth-grader took a lap around Zion Lutheran School in the car that celebrates the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 — in the backseat, at least.
Her mini victory lap came courtesy of the Indianapolis 500 Festival committee, which visited Zion Lutheran School this week to congratulate Audra for writing the winning essay in a statewide contest that aims to drum up excitement for the event among some of racing’s youngest fans.
Of 800 essays about Indianapolis 500 traditions — Audra wrote about the history of the race’s trophy — submitted by fourth-graders across the state, the Indianapolis 500 Festival judges picked Audra’s as best.
But the honors didn’t stop with a quick cruise around the blacktop. Along with her bragging rights came a sealed envelope of coveted tickets to the now sold-out event and the accompanying festival.
She’ll attend the 500 Festival parade today. On Sunday, Audra will be in the stands, watching IndyCar drivers whizz by in their pursuit to be the 100th champion of the greatest spectacle in racing.
Audra was one of three Zion Lutheran students to submit an essay after her fourth-grade class took a field trip to the track earlier this spring.
As part of the 500 Festival’s education program, students across the state were encouraged to choose what they considered the most important tradition of the Indy 500 and write an essay about what makes it special.
Audra wrote about the Borg-Warner Trophy, which is awarded to the race’s winner. Each year, the victor’s face and name are etched into the trophy, which stands 50 inches tall and weighs approximately 100 pounds. Now, 102 faces grace the award. After Sunday, there will be 103.
After hearing about the contest, Audra talked about entering for a month, her mom, Michelle Bloomer said.
She spent weeks deciding what tradition to write about and wrote a 483-word essay. She and her mom stayed up until 11 the night before it was due to cut it down to the 300-word limit.
Two weeks ago, as her class was preparing to head to gym class, Audra’s teacher, Kim Knippenberg received the good news. Audra’s essay won.
Audra was so excited, she cried. She wants to be a writer when she grows up and took the contest very seriously. But she didn’t expect to win.
“It was such a shock. I was so happy,” she said.
Knippenberg couldn’t be prouder of Audra. The students from her class who submitted the essays wrote them on their own time — it wasn’t a project she assigned.
After Knippenberg submitted the students’ essays to the 500 Festival, she didn’t think about them again until she saw the email. Its subject: “Congratulations.”
Audra is excited to experience all of the Indianapolis 500 events, especially since its the 100th running, but the parade — that’s what she’s really looking forward to.
She is a little girl, after all, and she heard there will be princesses.