sealPurdue News

May 2, 2003

Purdue Band upholds eight decades of tradition at Indy 500

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Walking in the footsteps of 84 years of band students, members of the Purdue "All-American" Marching Band again take center stage at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, when the band plays for the race’s opening ceremonies.

Daniel Rodriguez, the New York City police officer, who has risen to celebrity status as a singer in the wake of 9/11, will sing "The Star Spangled Banner" with the band. Following tradition, Florence Henderson will join the band for "America the Beautiful," and Jim Nabors will sing "Back Home Again in Indiana."

At noon Saturday, May 24, Purdue’s band also will be featured in the 500 Festival Parade, which begins at the intersection of North and Pennsylvania streets and winds its way through downtown Indianapolis. Country singer Wynonna Judd will serve as grand marshal for the parade, which includes 16 bands, 20 celebrities, including Purdue football coach Joe Tiller, and six giant character balloons. In central Indiana, the parade will be broadcast on WISH-TV, Channel 8, and nationally by ESPN.

A crowd in excess of 250,000 is expected for the 500 Festival Parade. Some stretches of the parade route permit open viewing, but tickets can be purchased for bleacher seating, reserved chairs or VIP spots in the TV zone lining the route. Tickets range from $12.50 to $25. For more information, call (800) 638-4296.

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 leapt at the chance to be associated with the young race that quickly established an international reputation. At that time the band was a military unit of men enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Corps at Purdue.

"We played for the Indianapolis 500 every year," recalls Marcus Gilbert, a 1925 graduate who lives in Carmel, Ind. "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 high school bands across the Midwest to participate in the event. This year, there are 26 bands from three states participating, with Greater Lafayette area represented by the Pride of Tri-County Marching Cavaliers and central Indiana represented by the Speedway High School "500" Marching Band.

Other Indiana bands include Concordia Lutheran High School, Fort Wayne; Crossroads of America Scout Band, Indianapolis; Bellmont High School, Decatur; Bloomington High School, Bloomington; Corydon Central High School, Corydon; Culver High School, Culver; Griffin High School, Griffin; Knox High School, Knox; Lincoln High School, Cambridge City; Northwood High School, Nappanee; Jennings County High School, North Vernon; New Prairie High School, New Carlisle; Tri Central High School, Sharpsville; Whitko High School, South Whitley; Taylor High School, Kokomo; Tri-County High School, Wolcott; and Woodlan High School, Woodburn.

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

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

CONTACT: Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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