GREENFIELD — William Dorton rushed up to the IndyCar and stuck his head in the cockpit, checking out the colorful display of dials and buttons.
Surrounded by children outside the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County, the 10-year-old led the charge to check out the newest attraction coming to this year’s Riley Festival.
Those who attend next week’s festival can experience the rumble and roar of the IndyCar’s engine while supporting a good cause. For $50, festival-goers next Thursday through Sunday will have the privilege of taking a two- to four-minute ride in a street-legal, two-seat Dallara IndyCar made specially for promotional events. All proceeds from the rides benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County.
Fans may schedule a ride in advance; walk-ups will also be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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The man behind the charitable event is Alan Hammons of New Palestine. An IndyCar enthusiast and a former member of the Boys and Girls Clubs, Hammons, who sells insurance, asked one of his clients — Indy Racing Experience — to sponsor the booth at the Riley Festival. Representatives from Indy Racing Experience, which offers racing enthusiasts the opportunity to drive or ride in IndyCars, agreed to take part.
Hammons has had a business relationship with Indy Racing Experience for about 20 years, he said, and he recognized a chance to use those connections to benefit an organization where he spent much of his childhood.
“It’s just a great opportunity to bring a new level of excitement to the Riley Festival,” he said. “There’s no better organization to look to than the club.”
Two two-seat Indy cars will take turns giving the Indy Racing Experience to riders, but there will also be a show car on display for festival-goers to take free photos with as well, Hammons said.
The racecars will be stationed at a booth at the east end of the festival near the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, said Nancy Alldredge, the festival’s board secretary.
The Boys and Girls Clubs plans to use the proceeds for improvements to the facility, including painting the inside of the gymnasium, said executive director Chad Hudson. The nonprofit organization had applied for a grant to make those improvements but did not receive it, so officials are thankful for another fundraising opportunity, Hudson said.
Community support goes a long way to sustain the nonprofit, which provides childcare and activities to children at its Greenfield location and an extension at Eastern Hancock Elementary School.
About 40 percent of the clubs’ budget comes from donations, while the rest is covered by the city of Greenfield and the United Way of Central Indiana, Hudson said.
Alldredge is pleased to add the experience to the offerings of the festival, which has spanned about 50 years in “Hoosier poet” James Whitcomb Riley’s hometown.
The cars will transport their riders down Main Street, starting at the eastern edge of the festival near the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, 123 E. Main St., said Riley Festival office administrator Linda Lowe.
In June, Luke Edwards, Indy Racing Experience facilities manager, brought one of the two-seat Dallara IndyCars to Greenfield to clear the route with local law enforcement officials. He wanted city officials to see the car for themselves, and he also took the race car past the boys and girls clubs for children to get an a close-up look.
The booth at the festival will also feature drawings and memorabilia of IndyCars and the Indianapolis 500 race, according to a press release. The booth will join nearly 400 other vendors at this year’s festival, Alldredge said.
Hammons looks forward to sharing his affinity for IndyCar with fans young and old.
“It’s not a long ride, but it really gives you a feel of what a driver at the Indy 500 fits in,” he said. “It’s really quite small.”
Hammons’ decision to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County speaks volumes about the clubs’ nearly 80-year history, Hudson said.
“It shows that people appreciate what we do in the community,” he said. “To see veteran club kids reach out and give back has been awesome.”
IndyCar rides will be offered for a $50 donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County during next week’s Riley Festival, Oct. 6-9.
Festival hours are 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 9.
Fans may schedule their ride in an IndyCar in advance by calling HRM Insurance Services at 317-861-7524 or the Boys and Girls Club of Hancock County at 317-462-2404.
Walk-ups to the booth, located at the east end of the festival on Main Street, will also be accepted.
Fans planning in advance for their IndyCar ride should plan to dress comfortably and wear closed-toe shoes or sandals with socks, organizers say.
Each rider must be at least 10 years old. Those under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign a waiver.