May 2, 2011

Indy 500 Pre-Race Activities… It’s Race Day in Indianapolis!!!

At 6 a.m., and in some years as early as 5 a.m., an explosive is set off to signal the opening of the gates. Then the Purdue University All-American Marching Band plays several pre-race songs, including “On the Banks of the Wabash” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Our National anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has been performed before the start of the Indy 500 in most years. Up through the 1970s and early 1980s, the song was typically played by the Purdue marching band without a vocalist, however, in some rare occasions, a vocalist was used.

By the mid-1980s, the Speedway began inviting notable artists to perform the national anthem. In nearly all cases, they would be backed by the by the Purdue band.

In most years since the 1991, the song “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America,” also had been performed by Florence Henderson, a native Hoosier, is a friend of the Hulman-George family. Her performance, often not televised, immediately precedes the national anthem. The performance was introduced for the race’s 75th anniversary running in 1991, in part due to Operation Desert Storm. Henderson switched to the national anthem for 1993-1997, then returned to the special pre-performance in 1999. In 2003, the song switched to “God Bless America” which became more popular in the post-9/11 era.