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Billboard taken down after calling for no more Indy 500 balloon release

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A billboard near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that called for the end of the balloon release at the annual Indianapolis 500 race has been taken down. 

The balloon release has occurred since 1947 during the singing of “(Back Home Again In) Indiana” before the start of the annual Indianapolis 500. 

Balloons Blow, which had purchased the removed billboard, is a nonprofit that looks to educate people about some of what it says are environmental impacts from balloon releases. 

The Outfront Media billboard visible to westbound motorists on West 16th Street near North Harding Street was blank Monday afternoon. A day earlier it had the Balloons Blow advertisement.

New York-based Outfront Media has not responded to a request from News 8 for more information. 

A spokeswoman said in a phone interview with News 8 that the balloon releases create litter, sometimes states away from where the original launch happened. She said an image in the billboard was from an Indianapolis 500 balloon found in Ohio. 

A Balloons Blow spokeswoman said the Indianapolis 500 balloon release is the largest remaining one in the world by its calculations. 

The Balloons Blow website said many types of animals have died from balloons. Sometimes, animals get caught in the balloon; other times, balloons can block digestive tracts and prevent animals from eating. Balloons Blow said there’s additional concern about balloons getting caught in local bird migration patterns.

The spokeswoman said there is no evidence that the balloon release at the IndyCar race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has caused any animal deaths.

A representative from Balloons Blow said the billboard came after the group had tried to reach out to IMS for three years. 

Answering a request for comment from News 8, IMS issued a statement Monday saying in part that the balloon release “remains a part of the Indianapolis 500 pre-race program. However, we continue listening to and evaluating feedback from multiple perspectives on the topic.” 

The Balloons Blow spokeswoman said its work has stopped other large balloon releases, including at Clemson University home football games last year. 

News 8 will have more on this story Monday at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.