INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It was a moment to celebrate the history of a city in one of its most iconic landmarks. Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday inside the Madam Walker Legacy Center to kick off the monumental bicentennial celebration.
People at Visit Indy believe it is only fitting that they commemorate 200 years as a city with a two-year celebration agenda. They also highlighted the “Top 10 reasons to Visit Indy,” making a list of some of the biggest things that have brought people to the city over the years, including being the top spot in the nation to host a convention.
“We’re going to start this year and go through next year,” said Leonard Hoops, CEO of Visit Indy.
TV host and Indianapolis native David Letterman was honored during the ceremony with the Bill McGowan Leadership Award. It’s an honor that is considered the highest in the Indianapolis tourism industry. The award recognizes an individual or organization who has made an impact or helped impact the support of the city’s image.
Peyton Manning received the honor in 2019 and before him was African American entrepreneur, philanthropist and political and social activist Madam C.J. Walker.
“It’s incredible to have David come back to Indianapolis to receive the Bill McGowan Tourism Award winner,” Hoops said. “That is the highest honor you can get in the tourism industry in Indianapolis, and obviously he’s our international hometown hero.”
“I’ve been doing this nine years and I’ve never been as nervous as I am with David Letterman coming in the house,” Hoops said.
Letterman talked with Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl about his love for his hometown, Hoosier hospitality, his career and more during a live Q&A session.
Letterman led off humbly joking about being surprised he was chosen for the award.
“My first thought was: Who canceled?” he said before the crowd laughed.
Letterman was introduced by A’Lelia Bundles, great-great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker. She affectionately referred to Letterman as a “homeboy” before bringing him to the stage in admiration of his Broad Ripple upbringing.
Meanwhile every speaker, including Letterman, touched on the significance of leading off the bicentennial celebration at the Walker Legacy Center, which they all agree is an important part of the city’s fabric.
Mayor Joe Hogsett and people with Visit Indy assured the crowd that Walker’s legacy will play a role in the list of ways they plan to acknowledge the city’s 200-year history.