Everything you need to know about Indy’s most amazing hunger-fighting party.
by Nora Spitznogle
I was lucky enough to attend the first Tonic Ball in 2002 and I was smitten. I’ve been lucky enough to be at each one since then and here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
The Tonic Ball takes over the heart of Fountain Square and is hosted in five venues. Prospect Street between the fountain and the fire station will be blocked off for easy pedestrian street crossing. Although I’m such a rule follower, I keep to walking to the corner to the crosswalk and waiting for the light. Maybe this will be the year I dare cross in the middle of the street. Maybe.
What to wear
Think concert, not fancy ball. Most likely you’ll be standing most of the evening, or be walking outdoors from venue to venue. Right now, the weather forecast calls for a clear and chilly night. The trick is to dress for both: being in a crowded room and outdoors. I suggest wearing a few layers and tossing a warm scarf over your shoulders, and a pair of gloves in your pocket or purse. Also keep your ID handy, the venues are all 21+ with the exception of Fountain Square Theatre (don’t worry, they sell booze also), and each venue will all card at the door.
How to get there
Parking is precious in Fountain Square any day. And especially so on Tonic Ball evening. Lyft and Uber are great options with the bonus of not having to worry about how you’ll get your car home if you have a cocktail or two. The Cultural Trail winds right smack through the middle of the Tonic Ball venues and there are several bike racks in the neighborhood, if you choose to ride. Be aware that scooters or any motorized vehicles will not be allowed on the closed-off portion of Prospect Street. There is a Blue Indy electric car station near the intersection of Morris and Shelby Streets.
What to eat
There are lots of great places in Fountain Square to have dinner or a pre-Tonic Ball nosh. Be aware that Pioneer is the only venue that offers food during the Tonic Ball. For post-party dining, Pure Eatery (right next to the Hi-Fi) is open until 3:00 am. You can typically find a few hardy members of the Tonic Ball committee at Peppy Grill (1004 Virginia Avenue) after the big night wraps up.
I assume that if you’re reading this, you already have a ticket – the Tonic Ball is sold out. Occasionally, a sponsor or kindhearted person will donate tickets if they can’t use them, so there may be a miracle or two that happens. But don’t count on it.
You can pick up your tickets at Second Helpings (1121 Southeastern Ave) today (Wednesday) from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, or on Thursday from 8:30 am until 7:30 pm at the front desk. On Friday (Tonic Ball night), you can pick up your tickets starting at 4:00 pm in front of Fountain Square Theatre.
Planning your tonic ball experience
Your ticket is a wristband and will get you in all five venues. Each venue is paired with an artist that will be covered by the bands. Clear as mud, right? In other words; Elton John won’t be at the Hi-Fi but his music will.
This year’s stages and honored artists:
Steel Dynamics Stage at Radio Radio: Pearl Jam
Sysco Stage at Fountain Square Theatre: Johnny Cash
White Rabbit Cabaret: ABBA
Sam Ash Stage at the Hi-Fi: Elton John
Navient Stage at Pioneer: Beyoncé
The doors to all of the venues open at 6:30 pm and bands start at 7:00 pm. It all goes pretty fast. There are over 80 bands – that adds up to 320 generous musicians donating their Friday night to raising awareness and money for Second Helpings. Each band will play two songs and off the stage they go.
You can find the who and where schedule here: http://www.tonicindy.com/schedule/
If you are looking to see a particular band, give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue and possibly wait in line. The stage managers go to heroic efforts to make sure the stages run on time, but stuff happens. And be nice to those doorkeepers at the venues. It’s not that they don’t want to let you in, it’s all about capacity and the fire code. Safety first!
Need a break?
Head to the Fountain Square Theatre. As the largest venue, there is more seating and room to chill out. You’ll also find guitars from Jim Irsay’s collection on display, t-shirt sales and the music of the Man in Black. Ever wondered what Dean Metcalf and Kristi Lee of the Bob & Tom Show look like in real life? You can see for yourself, they are emceeing the Johnny Cash stage.
Need a place to meet up with your peeps?
Under the Fountain Square Theatre marquee is a great spot. Bonus: those lights throw off some nice heat.
It’s a long evening. Spread your alcohol consumption accordingly. While all the venues accept credit cards, I suggest bringing cash, especially if you’re going to be hopping to different venues. That way you won’t need to close out your tab each time you switch venues. Remember, you cannot take drinks out of the club and into another one. State law, for reals.
Pat yourself on the back
You have helped Second Helpings further the mission of food rescue, culinary job training and hunger relief. For more info visit www.secondhelpings.org or call me at Second Helpings. I’d love to give you a tour and show you how amazing it all is.
The night of Tonic Ball is my favorite night of the year, and I hope it becomes yours too. I’ll be the one in the skirt made of Tonic Ball t-shirts, running around like a goofball with a huge grin on my face – let me know if I can answer any questions.
When you get home…
Mark your calendar for Friday, November 22, 2019 – next year’s big show. Share your photos on social media using #TonicBall. Take two aspirin and get some sleep.