By Mark Ambrogi
Shivani Bajpai had absolutely no idea she had a shot at being named the 500 Festival Queen.
The Zionsville resident was chosen from the 33 festival princesses at the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard May 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I often joke and say – if I had known, I would have at least painted my nails,” Bajpai said. “I did not even pay attention to what the Queen would do after being announced. I thought, surely it won’t be me. This is because I have spent the past few months with some of the most accomplished, kind-hearted and genuine women I have ever met. I do not consider myself any more qualified than any one of them; those ladies never cease to amaze me. They say being Queen means representing the values of the Princess Program in addition to the 500 Festival – so if I have been chosen to represent women as wonderful as they are, I am truly honored.”
Each 500 Festival Princess receives a $1,000 scholarship. As Festival Queen, Bajpai receives an additional $1,500 scholarship from the 500 Festival. She will continue to represent the 500 Festival at events throughout the year.
Although she resides in Zionsville, Bajpai lives in the Carmel Clay Schools district and graduated from Carmel High School in 2013. She graduated from IUPUI in May with a degree in biology and minors in Spanish and chemistry. She plans to attend medical school.
Bajpai said the most memorable part of the 500 Festival Princess Program is the service work that they do.
“To be a Princess has proven to be far more than being an ornament for race weekend,” she said. “We are vibrant and innovative ambassadors of the 500 Festival who have really tried to reach every community in a positive way.”
Bajpai said she is proud the princesses have been a part of more than 300 outreaches since they began this program in mid-February.
“I think the education programs that we help with are particularly interesting,” Bajpai said. “I am pursuing a career in the STEM fields myself, so to see that we are building a bridge between the track and Indiana classrooms is great to see. There are physics and logistics and critical thinking behind every car that leaves the garage. To see wheels turning in the kids’ minds is so entertaining to me. You never know what may inspire them.”