Eastern's Kindy 500 sports new features in year two

May 10—GREENTOWN — The 33 drivers who will compete at the Indianapolis 500 all hope to do what Oaklynn Steward and Benjamin Titus did Wednesday evening.

And that's come in first place.

Oaklynn and Benjamin kissed the bricks at Eastern Elementary School's second Kindy 500 as the fastest racers on the track. They got a glass of milk and wreaths draped over them, just like the winners of the real race.

Those were a few of the new features Eastern rolled out for year two of the event.

"We tried to go back and look at the real race and figure out what was missing to make it feel like an actual race," said kindergarten teacher Tami Maurer.

The Indy 500-inspired event sees kindergarteners turn a banana box into a race car, or Mario kart, or UPS truck, or a rocket ship or T-Rex. Creativity is encouraged.

Benjamin decked his car out as the No. 18 M&M's race car, driven by NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. The car had lights. Benjamin wore a matching racing shirt.

Oaklynn went with a Barbie theme and some checkered flags in the back. She was Barbie for Halloween.

Kindergarteners raced one another for the ultimate bragging rights: the fastest in class. There were looks of determination and lots of smiles as the kids crossed the finish line.

They were greeted by Indy 500 Princesses who gave them medals. More than one race ended in a photo finish.

The little racers got the full race-day experience.

There was an Indy 500 pace car, Eastern High School grad Keyton Romero sang the national anthem, taps was played and the kids sang songs to the crowd and showed off their cars in a parade lap before the first race. The parade was set to "Life is Highway" by Rascal Flatts.

Eastern Elementary Principal Randy Maurer and Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore served as the race's commentators. The two had about as much fun as the kids.

Moore interviewed racers before and after their heats. Maurer announced the race from the football stadium's press box.

Moore nabbed Addison Tyler for a quick-post race interview after the kindergartener ripped off two of his wheels mid race.

"That was my plan to go faster," Addison said.

"Makes him more aerodynamic," Moore told the crowd.

Tami Maurer came up with the idea after seeing a news segment on TV about Indianapolis schools doing their own Kindy 500.

Last year's event came together quickly and successfully. Community sponsors hopped on board, including Walmart, which donated the boxes.

"Last year was by far the best event I've been invited to," Moore said.

Tami said more sponsors reached out to be a part of this year's event.

That included Brad Howell Ford, which sponsored the repair shop tent where kids could get their cars fixed with duct tape and hot glue guns.

Eastern partnered with The Villages, a foster care service. Freewill donations given Wednesday will go to the agency.

Parents and the community packed the stands, and there were plenty more who stood and watched. Maurer said an Indy 500 representative told him Eastern has the best Kindy 500 in the state.

During the school day, kindergarteners had a pretend car wash, played red light, green light with school resource officers and had a drive-in movie. Wednesday's showing was aptly "Cars."

The SROs also wrote kids tickets for traffic violations. Going too fast, having too much gas or too many tires could result in a ticket.

The kindergarten teachers got in on the action with a race of their own in inflatable costumes.

Tami, dressed as a flamingo, beat out Cara Tarrh, who dressed as an ostrich. It was beak and beak for most of the race.

"I was thinking I wasn't going to run that fast," Tami said. "The competitive streak kicked in."

Eastern Elementary does not have a kindergarten graduation. The Kindy 500 serves as the unofficial year-end celebration.

"We wanted to do something that was this big celebration that everyone could participate in," Tami said.

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