The 317 Project tells stories of life in all of Indianapolis’ vibrant neighborhoods – 317 words at a time. This month's series, 500 for 500, honors the Month of May with stories about the Indianapolis 500 and the everyday people involved with the race in 500 words.
Anna Allen's favorite month of the year is the one in which she works the hardest.
It's the month she gets excited for when she sees the multicolor flags hoisted around the track. The one that makes her two-minute drive home much longer. It's the time of the year that shakes her office — literally.
It's all for the day she always hopes will be 70 degrees and sunny.
Allen's job is to make sure her customers have the best experience possible when they attend the Indianapolis 500. She works in the same ticket office at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that her mother did for over 20 years. It's the same track where she worked in the gift shops when she was in high school.
Helping customers is why Allen said she loves her job. She handles specialty tickets, works the front counter and catches up with her longtime customers — many of whom list her contact name as "Indy Anna."
"When you see all those people in the stands, every one of us in here has something to do with that," Allen said. "That makes everybody in here proud because you're in your seats, because we did that for you."
For an event her customers equate to Christmas, Allen said it is nice that they remember her, trust her and call back to ask for her. They appreciate her enough to give her letters, candy, flowers, and, for one, maple syrup.
It was the pink folder sitting in her desk drawer collecting dozens of notes from thankful customers that won her the ROSE Award in 2019, the city's top hospitality award. Once her boss Kellie got hold of it, Allen's personal collection turned into company-wide recognition.
"I never told anybody about this folder," she said. "I just kept it so that it made me realize this is why I do what I do."
Allen grew up in Speedway and her first Indianapolis 500 was in 1973. She became a racing fan herself and has gone to just about every one since.
Years later, Allen wasn't looking for a job. But, when she got a call about an opening at the track, she went for it. She was hired on the spot, and her mother was excited to keep the family tradition going. Now, over her 17-year career there, she went from following in her mom's footsteps to being the "mom of the office."
"This is just a really cool place to work," she said. "I know everyone says that, but it really is."
On race day this year, Allen will get up around 3 a.m. and get to the track around 4:30. She and her coworkers will sell tickets to their crowded lobby. Her office will watch the first few laps on their TV, and later, she will go home to a party of her family, coworkers and out-of-state friends.
The next day, she'll start renewing her customers' tickets for the next race.
"That's how important it is."
Cate Charron is an intern at the IndyStar. You can contact her on Twitter at @CateCharron or email at CCharron@gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 'Indy Anna' follows after mother to help fans with Indy 500 tickets