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Meet the woman behind the Indianapolis 500 Borg Warner winner's wreath

Posted at 7:35 PM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 23:07:45-04

INDIANAPOLIS — About an hour north of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway sits a floral shop just off the main road in Yorktown.

It's a town of about 10,000 and it's where one of the Indianapolis 500's most recognizable traditions is made.

"Honestly it's kind of like Christmas for us," Julie Harman Vance, designer of the Indy 500 Borg-Warner winner's wreath, said. "We look forward to it probably more than any other day of the year."

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The trip to the speedway is one Vance has made on race weekend countless times.

"Makes me feel older, but every year it's getting more exciting," Vance said. "It's as famous as a florist can get, right?"

She started a shop in Indianapolis 29 years ago. Since 2017, she's made it here in her shop, Buck Creek in Bloom.

"You can't really train for it," she said. "It's just about experience and time so I definitely put in mine."

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On Friday, the tradition is not different. The big Borg-Warner winner wreath is on display as she put together the baby Borg wreath.

"There's a little miniature Borg-Warner trophy that goes into the center of this and sits in the Borg-Warner suite," she said.

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The wreath is the same every year: 33 white orchids, dozens of checkered flags and a red, white and blue ribbon. It's a four-hour process she's perfected.

It's a welcome return of a bit of normalcy after a year that was anything but.

"I don't think I've ever seen a year where more people want yellow flowers and I think that's just because everybody is wanting happiness and sunshine," Vance said.

Business has been busier than ever, she said, as she continues delivering flowers to places like funerals, nursing homes and hospitals.

"There's a nursing home up the street and we lost 24 patients within days and that was very eye-opening to me because I do send flowers when they lose a patient," she said. "But I've never sat down and wrote up to 20-something orders at one time."

It's work, the mom of two, says distracted her from the ugliness of the pandemic.

"So we did what we can," Vance said. "Even though it's kind of petty compared to medical workers, but emotionally on certain people's ends, I think we've helped."

While things are still different this month, the signature wreath is back, after changing for 2020. And this year there will be two.

"I think everybody is just going to be excited to do something and be there, but next year it's going to be back to just how it was, I hope," she said.

She hopes to continue as the woman behind the wreath for more races to come.

Vance will deliver both wreaths to the speedway on Saturday and will spend Sunday at the race with her kids.

The tradition is a sense of pride for her, a tradition she didn't entirely understand when she took over in 1992 at 22-years-old.

But it all started in 1960 with Bill Cronin, who designed the first Indianapolis 500 winner's wreath.

Vance never met Cronin, but she continues his legacy.