In a few days, Indiana State University senior and Insurance and Risk Management major Julia Sonntag will wrap up an experience of a lifetime.
As a 500 Festival Princess for the Indianapolis 500, she is front and center for the biggest event in the State of Indiana. From the kick-off to the May event, a reception with her professional program mentor, the CEO of Apex Benefits in Indianapolis, breakfast at the Brickyard, a parade, and of course, the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500, she’s doing it all.
On race day, she’ll even get a ride around the track.
Simply put, Sonntag said, “It doesn’t feel real.”
But, it is about more than just wearing a crown and sash.
As a 500 Festival Princess for the Indianapolis 500, Sonntag is part of a select group of 33 college-aged women from across the state that serve as ambassadors for the festival, their hometowns, and colleges and universities. Every Princess also receives a $1,000 scholarship.
To be accepted into the highly competitive program, applicants must standout and exceed a series of qualifications that include being a resident of Indiana, being a full-time student in an Indiana college, maintaining a GPA of 3.0, completing a competitive interview process with hundreds of other candidates, and being involved in their respective communities.
“I’m excited to be a part of something like this that is so statewide. I love being involved in my community, but seeing it all come together is so different,” she said.
Before experiencing the 500 Festival-princess life firsthand, Sonntag saw her friends and colleagues from Indiana State participate in this program and realized it was something she wanted to be a part of.
As a kid, she attended the 500 with her family and remembers seeing the princesses in attendance.
As she embraces her moment, Sonntag’s mission is bigger: to help make generational impacts in several communities while promoting positivity on what it means to be a Hoosier.
Her program responsibilities include coordinating her outreach and community service projects. She focuses on teaching kids about positivity, confidence, and leadership. She recently read to all of the Rio Grande Elementary School kindergarten classes and plans to participate in the school’s Field Day.
“I try to do things that I’m passionate about. With the kids, we want to engage with them and show that this may be a princess, but it’s about being strong, a leader, involved in your community, and showing a different perspective on what it means to be a princess,” she added. All the girls in this program prioritize attending each other’s events, so it is great to have their support and get to know them better. These bonds will last a lifetime.”
Last year, Sonntag didn’t make it to the first round of interviews in the 500 Festival Princess program. Fast forward 12 months, and she’s the only representative from Indiana State University.
“It shows getting involved in your community pays off. I reap the benefits of what I put into my time at Indiana State University. I love representing this community and my school,” she said.
You’ll also find the Brazil, Ind., native heavily involved around Indiana State’s campus. She’s a Gongaware Scholar, a member of the Networks Professional Development Program, Vice President of Gamma Iota Sigma, a professional insurance fraternity, and the Director of Fundraising for State Dance Marathon.
Her achievements include: winning the Networks Program and helping her team win first place in the Clements Worldwide Competition. In April, she won the Richard G. Landini Outstanding Junior Award.
This summer, she’ll be completing an internship in Florida and Alabama. After graduation, she’s interested in working for a wholesale brokerage.