IUPUI student joins Indiana Bicentennial Torch on inspirational odyssey

By Rich Schneider, IU Communications Specialist:

The Indiana Bicentennial Torch traveled more than 3,000 miles as it completed a five-week journey across Indiana, leaving thousands of Hoosiers inspired by one of the major commemorative events of the state’s 2016 bicentennial celebration.

And for one week, Sari Swinehart, a School of Physical Education, Tourism and Event Management student at IUPUI, got to play a unique role in that inspirational odyssey.

Swinehart was one of six tourism and event management students who assisted with Torch Relay logistics. The assignment stemmed from a discussion between the school and the state’s tourism office about partnering for the bicentennial event. Five undergraduate students each spent a week traveling with the torch, while one graduate student spent all five weeks assisting with the Torch Relay logistics.

Swinehart joined the Torch Relay in Delaware County Sept. 27. She slid into the driver’s seat of the Torch Relay media car that transported Ball State University student videographers and photographers documenting the torch’s journey. Until she returned to Indianapolis Oct. 2, she would spend up to 12 hours a day behind the wheel, driving an average of 97 miles a day.

Sari Swinehart

Sari Swinehart

Positioned immediately behind the state police cruiser that led the caravan, Swinehart was tasked with regulating the speed of the caravan to match that of the person or vehicle carrying the torch.

She would radio the state trooper to slow down or speed up to keep pace with the torchbearer located directly behind her vehicle. The torch was carried various ways, sometimes by individuals walking or running and other times in antique automobiles or on horseback, by horse and buggy or on a tractor — or even in a boat.

The Torch Relay was designed to allow Hoosiers to symbolically pass the torch, “connecting generations to IGNITE our future.”

Each day began with an opening ceremony, preceded by an early-morning informational meeting reviewing the day’s events. The day drew to a close in similar fashion, with an ending ceremony for the torch’s travels.

During the week Swinehart was with the torch, she traveled to 15 counties and ended her stint in Steuben County.

And something else occurred every day. Crowds of people came out to see the torch. “It was really cool to see a lot of people who were into it,” Swinehart said. “They though it was a great thing to come and see.”

The first night on the road ended in Jay County at a big festival featuring a hog roast.

“There were a ton of people at the festival,” Swinehart said. “That was probably the best night for me. It was awesome to see all those folks who wanted to be part of the bicentennial experience.

A man carries the Indiana Bicentennial Torch.

A scene from the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.

“I loved it. I saw a lot of open land, a lot of cornfields. It was very beautiful, and I saw a lot of pretty places that I didn’t know existed. It made me appreciate the state a lot more, just all the beautiful land and the people too. Everyone in these counties was so nice and so sweet. They provided great hospitality. It was a big eye-opener, that’s for sure. I enjoyed it a lot.”

The experience also confirmed her career choice: event planning.

“I am thankful I was asked to do this,” Swinehart said. “It was good to see event planning from the inside, seeing the setting up and tearing down. It showed how much hard work and dedication goes into this.”

“I needed something like this. It showed me this is what I want to do and continue to do and I will work my way there,” she said.

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