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Eastern kindergartners put their pedals to the metal at Kindy 500

May 11—GREENTOWN — "Are you ready for the second greatest spectacle in racing?" Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore asked the crowd seated at Eastern's football stadium.

His question was met with applause. Turning to the evening's racers, Moore said, "Kindergartners, rev your engines!"

Standing along side the track, the kids responded appropriately, making "vroom, vroom" noises.

Soon after they were off, sprinting down the track with their banana box cars slung over their shoulders. The crowd cheered on their favorite racers and waved checkered flag pennants.

Thus was the scene Wednesday for Eastern Elementary School's first-ever Kindy 500.

Inspired by the Indianapolis 500 and similar school events held each year around the state, Eastern's Kindy 500 was an all-day event that saw kindergartners turn an ordinary banana box into a race car.

Students flexed their creativity, decorating and bedazzling their boxes. There were plenty of race cars, but other students opted to turn their box into a monster truck, the Batmobile, a postal truck and a fire truck.

The day culminated in a race at the track.

Each kindergarten class ran three heats with the top students advancing to the semifinals and the finals.

"It is our goal to make your kid tired so they will go to bed on time," said Randy Maurer, Eastern Elementary principal. Maurer and Moore provided commentary over the loud speaker.

It was Henry Shrack who won it all, zooming by his competitors in a taxi-cab-inspired car.

Henry said he felt "awesome" as Moore interviewed after the first heat.

"I don't know," was his response as to why he picked a taxi. He gave the same answer as to what his motivation was for winning it all.

Henry did say he felt fast on the track.

Some students ran so fast that parts of their car fell off mid-race.

One of James Fincher's monster truck wheels dislodged on the track. Finley Sickles, trailing behind him, picked up the wheel (made of cardboard) and carried it over her head to the finish line.

Eastern pulled out all the stops for the Kindy 500.

A local Boy Scouts troop opened the evening playing taps. Eastern High School graduate Keyton Romero sang the national anthem.

The kindergarteners sang a few songs before the race. Indy 500 Princesses and a pace car were among the crowd.

The kindergarten teachers had their own race, with their own banana box cars. The race had a "Mario Kart" theme, from the popular series of video games.

Kindergarten teacher Tami Maurer got the idea for a Kindy 500 after seeing Indianapolis area schools do similar events.

It started with a simple question, "Can we use the track?"

"It just started to snowball," Maurer said.

The Maurers go to church with Moore. They asked if he would be a part of the event. Other Eastern folks managed to get businesses like Kokomo Speedway to contribute. The speedway gave each kindergarten student a free ticket to the track this summer.

Walmart in Kokomo donated the banana boxes. There are Eastern grads who work there.

"It's neat that so many teachers and staff members are connected to businesses in the community," Tami Maurer said.

Kindergarten teacher Ashley Reed said the more people heard about the event, the more wanted to help. And everyone who said they would come to Kindy 500 showed up.

The school day was filled with other car-related activities.

Kindergarteners went through a pretend car wash, had an eye test, a driver's test where they traced traffic signs, played red light green light with police officers and had a drive-in movie with popcorn.

"I liked today was about letting them pretend and play and be kids," Reed said. "It was all about them."

Red light green light was a highlight for Tami Maurer.

Police officers wrote students tickets for picking their nose, leaking oil and driving with their feet instead of the steering wheel.

"The kids really enjoyed that," she said. "It was great to see the kids see them in a positive light."

One of the students Moore interviewed at the track said he got a ticket for picking his nose.

"The ol pick 'n flick ticket," Randy Maurer said over the loud speaker.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.