Bill Armstrong Stadium, Bloomington, IN
In 1951, the first ever Little 500 was held at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The director of the IU Foundation at the time, Howard S. Wilcox Jr., founded the Little 500 in memory of his father. He wanted this event to bring the students and faculty of Indiana University closer together, as one.
Backstory and Context
Howard S. Wilcox Jr. was born on February 3, 1920. He first came to Indiana University as an undergraduate student in 1938. After finishing his undergraduate years as a Hoosier, he served in the U.S. army until 1947 when he opened his own public relations firm. He was contacted by Indiana University for the creation of his public relations firm. He then became the executive director of the Indiana University Foundation, and he was on the board of trustees. Wilcox, the director of the IU Foundation in 1951, had the idea of a university-wide bicycle race after he saw some Indiana University students having a bike race of their own around campus. Wilcox wanted to make this event well known and famous, as he wanted it to mirror the ever famous Indy 500 race car race in Indianapolis. Wilcox’s father won the Indy 500 as a race car driver in 1919, although he died shortly after in a different race. Wilcox wanted the Little 500 to be in memory of his father’s love for racing. In addition, Wilcox believed that the event would be great publicity for the IU Student Foundation, and he wanted this race to be a fundraiser for scholarships to support IU students who were working while they were in school. The Little 500 race was held for the first time on IU’s campus in 1951. On May 12, 1951, nearly 7,000 people gathered to watch the first ever Little 500 bike race. For the first five years of the event, the Sigma Nu fraternity team composed of four people was the unstoppable winner competing against 32 other teams composed of fraternity boys and independent teams. In 1953 the Little 500 decided to add more entertainment by adding in the Variety Show on Saturday nights (this was an entertainment show in the IU Auditorium full of various acts), and the first ever Little 500 Sweetheart, who was the famous celebrity known as Lu Ann Simms. Since then, live concerts were added in on Friday nights, and various celebrities attended including former President Barack Obama. The event gained the status of “The World’s Greatest College Weekend” as people and students came from near and far to participate in the activities and events prior to the race, and of course, to see the main event (Bell, 2019)! It has now been sixty-nine years since the first Little 500, and now over 25,000 fans attend the events every year. The Little 500 became an annual event, making it historic and one of the most well known college events ever!
Bell, Laura. “Pedaling Through History.” Bloomington, Visit Bloomington, 16 Apr. 2019, www.visitbloomington.com/blog/post/little-500-history/.
Crew, PEZ. “The Little 500: Two Days In April.” PezCycling News, 15 Apr. 2016, pezcyclingnews.com/features/the-little-500-two-days-in-april/.
Farahan, Naomi. “A Short History of the Little 500 Race.” Indiana Daily Student, 18 Apr. 2018, www.idsnews.com/article/2018/04/a-short-history-of-the-little-500-race.
Freedman, Jean. “Archives Online at Indiana University.” Indiana University Oral History Archive, 1991-1998, 1991, webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/findingaids/view?brand=general&docId=ohrc072.xml&chu