For Indianapolis Colts fans, the doldrums of summer can make the football season seem like it is an eternity away.
But to whet your appetite until kickoff, the Colts have planned a unique immersive event in Johnson County on Thursday that will recreate the festivity and flair of the gameday experience.
Franklin will be one of three cities in Indiana to host the Colts Fan Fest, an free interactive festival featuring giveaways, live music and a traveling museum. Offensive linemen Jake Mewhort and Anthony Castonzo are scheduled to sign autographs, while cheerleaders will be pumping up the crowd and posing for photos.
This will be the 14th year that the Colts have packed up to visit communities throughout Indiana, using the celebrations as a way to strengthen the connection between the team and its fans.
“We really use the summertime to kind of get outside of the Indianapolis area with players,” said Chelsea Durham, event coordinator for the team. “We understand that the Colts fanbase extends well beyond Indianapolis, so we utilize the summer to get out and do something other than what we do at the stadium and take the team to the backyard of our fans.”
Colts officials contacted Franklin Parks and Recreation as it was making plans for this year’s Fan Fest. After visiting the city and scouting for locations for the massive festival, the team was impressed enough to choose Franklin, Durham said.
“Franklin is proximal to Indianapolis, but it’s definitely an area we want to target. We take a look at where we’ve been over the last couple years, and the area of the state we reached,” she said. “We chose it because of its geographical location, and the fact that we hadn’t been there for several years.”
This will be the first time the Colts have come to town for the Fan Fest. The team did hold a mini-camp at Franklin College in 2009, which drew more than 4,300 people and helped lay the groundwork for future events.
In addition to Franklin, the team will go to Peru and Yorktown as well.
Officials with the city parks department and Discover Downtown Franklin worked with Colts organizers to facilitate the area where the event will be set up, the electrical and utility needs and other logistics.
For the city, this is a great opportunity to show off what makes it special, said Carisa Delph, executive director of Discover Downtown Franklin.
“It’s an honor to be chosen to have the Colts come to Franklin, that they want to come and kick off their season here,” she said. “It means our city is a community-oriented place. We should be excited about this.”
The festival will be set up around the downtown courthouse square.
Mewhort and Castonzo, starters on the Colts offensive line, are tentatively scheduled to appear for photos and autographs. Fans will be allowed one autograph per person, though they can get back in line for additional autographs after meeting the players once.
People will get to test out their football skills in the Play 60 Zone, doing footwork drills, sacking tackling dummies and diving between a pair of would-be linemen for a touchdown.
Interactive inflatables are planned, and people can update their Colts gear at the mobile pro shop. The Colts in Motion exhibit, a 42-foot-long traveling museum full of interactive team history and memorabilia, will be open.
People can compare their hands to Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton, test your Colts knowledge with a touchscreen quiz and see replicas of the 2006 Lombardi Trophy and Super Bowl ring.
Fans are encouraged to arrive early to the event, which officially starts at 5 p.m. Regardless of rain, the festival will still go on, Durham said.
Indianapolis Colts Fan Fest
What: An interactive fan experience featuring Colts players and cheerleaders, memorabilia, games and football-related activities.
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Downtown Franklin courthouse square
- Appearances by offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Anthony Castonzo
- Autographs and photos with Colts cheerleaders
- Register to win Colts tickets
- Free Colts giveaways
- Play 60 Zone, a football-related activity area
- Colts In Motion, the team’s traveling museum
- Live music
- Mobile Colts pro shop