When the IPL 500 Festival Parade passes through downtown Indianapolis on May 26, one of the proudest spectators in the expected crowd of 300,000 will be Rebecca VanVliet ’19.

Since January, VanVliet, a marketing major, has been a full-time intern with the 500 Festival, the non-profit organization that puts on civic events around the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. She works from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, fulfilling one of the two internships that all Lacy School of Business students are required to complete and getting a taste of the work world.

Her role as intern has included working on logistics and planning for festival events, which include the parade, the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, and the 500 Festival Princess Program. During the weekend of the Mini-Marathon, VanVliet said, she worked for 40 consecutive hours.

“I was exhausted, but at the end, I had a hand in making such a great event happen, one of the best half-marathons anywhere,” she said. “To be able to say I’m part of that is really special.”

But the best part of her internship experience, she said, has been getting to call retirement homes and other organizations that have asked to buy tickets for the parade.

“They ask, ‘OK, so how much for the tickets?’ and I get to tell them that the tickets are a gift from the 500 Festival,” she said. “It’s really cool, and it works in with a lot of my personal passions as well, which is great.”

Those personal passions include participating in Best Buddies, an organization dedicated to ending the social, physical, and economic isolation of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. VanVliet is the Event Planner for the Butler chapter. (She also serves as Chapter Marketing Director for Her Campus, an organization that empowers college women, and Ambassador Director for the Independent Student Council.)


VanVliet has been involved in event work for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, she volunteered, and later worked for, what the community calls “the largest three-day Irish Festival on the planet.”

“I like the idea of putting a lot of work into an event and see it come to fruition,” she said. “It’s so gratifying.”

This summer, she will switch gears and do her second internship with Comcast. When she’s finished, she’ll be able to claim experience working for a government, a non-profit, and a corporation.

But right now, VanVliet’s attention is focused on her work with the 500 Festival.

“It’s something I would recommend to Butler students,” she said. “Butler’s campus is right in the heart of Indianapolis, and I think sometimes people forget that. This internship has been a really cool way to experience the month of May in Indianapolis.”