sealPurdue News

May 10, 2002

Purdue Band upholds eight decades of tradition at Indy 500

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Walking in the footsteps of 82 years of band students preceding them, members of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band will take their own lap around the famous 2.5 mile oval track at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, as it plays for the race's opening ceremonies.

Purdue's band also will be featured in the 500 Festival Parade at noon Saturday, May 25. The parade begins at North and Pennsylvania and winds its way through the downtown Indianapolis. The broadcast of the parade (available in central Indiana on CBS affiliate WISH-TV, Channel 8), will provide a special feature spot to the joint performance of "God Bless America" by the band and the West Point Glee Club at the beginning of the coverage.

A crowd of more than 300,000 people is expected for the 500 Festival Parade. There are many stretches of the parade route that permit open viewing, but tickets can be purchased for preferred seating in the bleachers lining the route. Tickets are $12.50 to $25. Call (800) 638-4296 for more information.

The Purdue marching band's first director, Paul "Spotts" Emrick, forged the initial relationship with the Indianapolis 500 in 1919, the race's ninth year of existence. Always interested in promoting his band and Purdue, Emrick welcomed the chance to be associated with the young race that was quickly establishing an international reputation. At that time the band was a military unit of men enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps at Purdue.

Marcus Gilbert, a 1925 graduate who lives in Carmel, Ind., has fond memories of the Indianapolis 500 parade.

"We played for the Indianapolis 500 every year," Gilbert says. "We'd ride down on the Monon railroad or buses the day before, and the boys would get to see the town. The Purdue Band always leads the parade."

The parade Gilbert refers to is the Parade of Bands that begins at 8 a.m. at the track on race day. Each year Purdue invites bands across the Midwest to participate in the event, which is dominated by high school musicians. This year 17 bands will participate. The Greater Lafayette area will be represented by the Pride of Tri-County Marching Cavaliers. The Speedway High School "500" Marching Band will represent central Indiana.

Following a tradition begun 83 years ago, only the Purdue band plays for the opening ceremonies. It will back up the West Point Glee Club in the National Anthem. As it has in years past, the band will perform "America the Beautiful" with Florence Henderson and "Back Home Again in Indiana" with Jim Nabors.

The 500 Festival Parade was added to the race month activities in the mid-1950s. The Purdue "All-American" Marching Band has appeared in every parade since.

CONTACT: Kathy Matter, (765) 496-6785;

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Media interested in interviews should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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