Near the front of the stage, in the muddy grass of what was Sunday’s Snake Pit, there is something so innocuous, so utterly unrecognizable that if you blink you might miss it.
It’s a sheet of cardboard with an unmistakable stain of glaze. And are those cake crumbs near the edge? In effect.
Yes, it’s definitely a pseudo-celebrity sighting – although we couldn’t officially get a comment from the cake itself, it’s probably the one that Steve Aoki, Snake Pit performer thrown into the crowd just 24 hours ago at the Indy 500 concert in turn 3 of the speedway’s infield.
It seems fitting and symbolic for the day after the biggest party of the Memorial Day weekend.
This unfortunate relic of what was once a moderately delicious pastry was just one of the signs of a good time left behind. There were boxes, clothes, wrappers, bags, lots of crushed fries and, of course, cans.
So, so, so many cans that once held a tasty drink or two the night before. As, enough to recreate this TikTok 500 times.
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It was a welcome sign for race organizers to see IMS packed with people on Sunday after two years of crowd-limiting COVID-19 restrictions, and it was squarely expected to be filled with lots of trash left for account the next day.
The place was not totally abandoned.
A handful of volunteers dotted the stands, about 750 in total, according to Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials. This may seem infinitesimal in a racetrack that had around 325,000 fans the day before.
Volunteers from schools, churches come to help
Non-profit groups that help clean up on Monday after the race are an annual tradition. Every year, groups pile up on the track from 7am
“Our fans were so excited to be back at full capacity this year and helped us keep the grounds clean throughout May by taking advantage of increased recycling and waste diversion efforts throughout the property,” IMS President Doug Boles said in a statement. .
“Our post-race volunteers are a key part of our post-race tradition as they help collect trash and recycling left behind by such a large crowd,” Boles continued. “This is a great fundraising opportunity for groups, and we appreciate the support from our community.”
Non-profit groups don’t work for free, however. Their groups receive money which is priced and allocated to each stand based on staffing needs to clean the area.
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Jim Hostetler, a former teacher and current class sponsor at Liberty Christian School in Anderson, has been volunteering for the cleanup since the current green program began around 1998, he believes.
Hostetler joined a few students from the school’s class of 2023 on the track on Monday. He’s been doing this for a long time; he knows the drill. Every time he came he was in stands H and J, for “Jim Hostetler”, he joked.
One year, Hostetler found a deputy sheriff’s wallet, the most unusual item he had seen. He called the owner and mailed him back.
The high school raises funds for their mission trips. Each student will likely raise $90 to $100 to fund their mission funds, Hostetler said.
Along with payment for volunteering, Hostetler hopes to make the most of all those empty beer cans.
“I can’t stand to see cans being thrown away,” he said. “Especially right now. Aluminum is at its highest.”
He hopes to earn between $500 and $600 from the aluminum trade, he said, although he had to take them home because no one is open on Memorial Day.
Janis and Mary Muncy came to clean house with Carthage Community Church. Janis Muncy has been helping clean up after the Indy 500 for 18 years, and Mary Muncy since she was 16. She is 22 now.
Although the group from Carthage arrived at around 7:30 a.m., they had already almost finished by 9 a.m. About 16 people were in their group and they were working efficiently.
Janis has already participated in the race, unlike Mary Muncy. Seeing the trash shaped his opinion of the event.
“It doesn’t make you want to go there,” said Mary Muncy.
But Janis Muncy disagreed.
“It’s a show everyone should see,” she said.
Carthage Community Church is always assigned to the section just off the finish line, Janis Muncy said, so guests have more money to spend, or as she put it, less.” yoohoo!” crowd.
“I still found shots of Fireball and Jell-O,” added Mary Muncy.
She said it’s gotten better since she started coming, though. This year is better than most.
“Right now we’re going through and picking up all the litter and bringing it to the aisles,” Mary Muncy said. “We used to sweep it to the ends and then pick it up because it was just too much”
Weirdest thing they’ve seen today? “Anti Monkey Butt” powder, an anti-friction substance. It’s impossible to enjoy running while suffering from chafing, after all.
Janis Muncy estimated they would raise about $4,000 for the church by the end of the day, to fund youth programs like Vacation Bible School. From his perspective, getting the Indy 500 trash cleanup gig is a big deal.
“You want to show up and you want to do a good job because they have a long list of people waiting,” she said.
Chris Mauldin came with Solid Rock Baptist Church, Pendleton. This is her first year of cleaning, even though the church has been coming for three or four years.
The church raises funds to send children to youth camp, and Mauldin said their group shows their faith by participating.
“It’s a good way to help the community,” he said.
For Mauldin, the waste sites varied. He was surprised by some of the things left behind, like full coolers.
“People just leave all their belongings here,” he said, “pretty expensive stuff… Nothing too extreme. Lots of chicken bones.”
Felicia Brokaw came with Sanders Temple Church of God in Christ. Their group raises funds for their youth programs.
When asked about his impression of the 500 cleanup, Brokaw’s expression was scholarly.
“They had a lot of fun here,” she said.
Robert Underwood is a deacon at Sanders Temple Church of God in Christ.
“They send our young people to do the work, so I decided to join them,” he said.
He did not come to the race yesterday. He was in church. But he already came and said the relics were definitely a sign of a good time.
“Trash is trash,” he said.
Ultimately, volunteer groups are able to fundraise for their audience, and it’s a unique way to fundraise, and if you’re lucky, you get out before lunch, with a bit of camaraderie in addition.
“You’re related,” Janis Muncy said.