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Published: Wednesday, 7/26/2006

Defiance races with Hornish excitement

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish, Jr., will be honored today in Defiance, with at least 10,000 people expected for the day's events. Besides the parade, many racing and local officials will be on hand. Hornish, who grew up in Defiance County, went to high school in Fulton County, and lives in Henry County, won the race May 28. Indianapolis 500 champion Sam Hornish, Jr., will be honored today in Defiance, with at least 10,000 people expected for the day's events. Besides the parade, many racing and local officials will be on hand. Hornish, who grew up in Defiance County, went to high school in Fulton County, and lives in Henry County, won the race May 28.
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DEFIANCE - Today, which is Sam Hornish, Jr., Day in Defiance to celebrate Hornish's stunning win of the Indianapolis 500, might be just about the biggest party that Defiance has ever thrown for a hometown hero.

At least 10,000 people are expected at a 6 p.m. parade that will feature some of racing's big names.

There are cars for Brian Barnhart, president of the Indy Racing League, Tony George, chief executive officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Joie Chitwood, chief operating officer of the Indy speedway, Mike King, radio voice of the Indy Racing League, and Brett Shelton, president of the Michigan International Speedway.

Hornish's racing car will be paraded through the city on a semi-trailer.

Indy Festival Queen Tracey Todd will be there, and city leaders have 2,000 small checkered flags to give to children to wave.

"This is something to celebrate," said Defiance Mayor Bob Armstrong, who began making plans for this day about the time Indy officials waved the checkered flag for Hornish on May 28.

The parade, which steps off at Defiance Middle School, will go to Northtowne Mall, where Hornish and numerous racing officials and local leaders are to speak starting at 7:30 p.m.

There's more excitement to follow that, according to Mayor Armstrong, though he wouldn't elaborate on it last night other than to say: "It's gonna be a great day for the city of Defiance."

It might be the biggest day in Defiance since then-President Eisenhower visited. News clippings reported 50,000 people were in Defiance to see him on Oct. 14, 1953, when the cornerstone for Defiance College's library was placed.

When Eisenhower was back in Defiance as a former president in 1963 to give the college's commencement address, a clipping reported three television stations, two radio stations, both major wire services, and many area newspapers covered his speech.

Cindy Mack, director of the Greater Defiance Area Tourism and Visitors Bureau, is betting that Hornish will draw more cameras than a former president.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook," she said, predicting at least 30 media organizations will cover Sam Hornish, Jr., Day.

She's taken even more calls from people wanting to put a unit in the parade. And she's saying no to almost all of them.

Organizers decided early on to hold the parade to about 40 units. Otherwise, they said, the three to four hours that Hornish is to spend in Defiance would have all been taken up by a huge parade and there wouldn't have been as much time for speeches and other events.

So city leaders limited the parade to only units that had the most direct association with Hornish. That will include vehicles carrying the mayors of Defiance, Napoleon, and Archbold who all claim Hornish because he grew up in Defiance County, graduated from Archbold High School in Fulton County, and now lives in Henry County.

There will be 14 Shriners units in a variety of small and smaller cars because Hornish is a Mason and thus is affiliated with the Shriners.

And there will be a float from the drivers of the Hornish trucking firm owned by Hornish's father, Sam Hornish Sr.

The only unit that might not have a direct tie to Hornish is the Batmobile - the 1966 vehicle that Adam West drove in the Batman television series.

But curators of a museum in Auburn, Ind., who are sending antique Indy cars wanted to send the Batmobile as well with the message, "From one Super Hero to another, Congratulations Sam."

And Ms. Mack said she couldn't refuse that.

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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