Years ago, my wife and I registered our sons, Austin and Zach, for the Bank One 500 Festival Rookie Run. In what became an annual tradition, we'd drive the boys downtown early on the appointed Saturday in May, pick up their T-shirts and racing numbers, and wait for their age group to be called.
At the appointed hour, Austin and Zach would line up with scores of other kids, run a few blocks up and back Meridian Street, and receive a package of trinkets for their effort.
My kids are too old for the Rookie Run these days. But my niece and nephews continued the family tradition Sunday afternoon. I walked the few blocks from my downtown home to watch. My parents drove down from Zionsville to cheer on the grandkids and snap some photographs.
What began as an offshoot of the 500 Festival Kids' Day on Monument Circle is now a major fete of physical-fitness employing multiple heats to accommodate hundreds of kids ages 3 to 12 running everything from two blocks to nearly a mile (depending on their ages).
After my nephew Cole had run with the 7-year-olds, I took him for a walk through the crowded Kids' Day festivities. We passed dental hygiene displays and college recruiters, TV personalities and housing agencies.
On the way, we ran into our friend Steven and his daughter, Abbey Claire. Dressed to the nines, they were going to see Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's performance of "Peter and the Wolf."
When Cole and I ducked into Qdoba so I could buy him a lemonade, the TV was tuned to the Indiana Pacers vs. Detroit Pistons NBA playoff game. It was being played a few blocks away at Conseco Fieldhouse. As we waited in line, I saw that the home team had fallen behind by 10 points in the early going. When I reported this to our group at the Rookie Run, everyone groaned.
After all the kids had run, the family gathered at my house to watch the rest of the Pacers game. At halftime, the network gave its usual sports update. But instead of cutting away to New York or Los Angeles, they aimed their zoom lens due west from downtown, then cut to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an update on Indy 500 qualifying.
Knowing that my late wife had always cheered on the women drivers, we looked to see how Danica Patrick had done. The network reporter said she was sitting comfortably in the second row after a four-lap qualifying average of just over 227 mph. We all cheered.
When the game ended (the Pacers lost), the rest of the family headed home and I walked the mile to my office to prepare for a Monday morning meeting. Along the way, I passed the Indiana Repertory Theatre, where hundreds had laughed through the 2 p.m. matinee of "Searching for Eden," and the Indiana Convention Center, where delegates from some show milled about. Then I grabbed a bite to eat at the bustling Steak n Shake, and headed to work.
Twenty years ago, the director David Lynch released a disturbing and critically acclaimed film called "Blue Velvet." It opens and closes with an idyllic American town, where stay-at-home moms bake apple pies, kids play safely in picket-fenced yards and robins perch merrily on windowsills.
But behind the faÃ§ade lurks a dark underworld of kinky lounge singers, sadistic kidnappers and demonic drug dealers.
The contrast is jarring. So is the contrast between the community I witnessed so proudly on Sunday and the undercurrents that threaten to undermine all we hold dear.
Sure, it was nice seeing children running along the city's main thoroughfare. But for each Rookie Run participant, tens of thousands of others get little or no exercise. And all our kids-and their moms and dads-must inhale cancer-, heart disease-, and asthma-inducing chemicals each time they enter a smokechoked Steak n Shake.
Yes, it was delightful seeing families learning together at Kids' Day. But for each one attending, tens of thousands of others get inferior, under-funded educations with little or no parental involvement.
While I loved seeing crowds at the theater, symphony and convention center, all face funding challenges before the City-County Council in coming weeks.
While sports have made Indianapolis a network darling, it took a fierce battle to fund a stadium worthy of 21st century events.
As for Abbey Claire, because her daddies are gay, our City-County Council says it's OK for their employers to discriminate against them, while our state Legislature wants to render their union unconstitutional.
And for every ABC beauty shot of our city, there's a national newspaper story teasing us about our tortured time zones.
A few weeks ago, an out-of-state consultant asked me, "What does Hoosier mean?"
I replied, "It's a synonym for stubborn."
Hetrick is president and CEO of Hetrick Communications Inc., an Indianapolis-based public relations and marketing communications firm. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.