The move was confirmed to FOX 8 sister station FOX59 by both IMS president Doug Boles and IMS representative Alex Damron. Damron says the balloon release is “indefinitely paused.”
The balloon release was last performed in 2019.
According to a FOX59 report on a 2019 IndyStar investigation, IMS officials said the thousands of balloons released in previous Indy 500s are biodegradable.
A reporter tested balloons similar to the ones used by IMS and tracked their progress over 11 months. She found when exposed to bacteria, the balloons “do degrade unlike a plastic.”
The balloon release has been heavily criticized by groups like the Indiana Audobon Society, who say the balloon debris is a hazard to birds, fish, and other animals. They say animals can be strangled by the balloons and can be seriously harmed, even die, if the balloons are ingested.
In 2019, a billboard was temporarily placed near IMS in Speedway that read “BALLOONS POLLUTE AND KILL. #StopLitteringIMS.”
The pre-race balloon release dates as far back as 1947.
The 106th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29.