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Becoming a part of Indianapolis 500 and Purdue history

Golduster Sophia Strain poses in front of the Purdue Memorial Union in her Indianapolis 500 dancing uniform.

Golduster Sophia Strain first attended the Indianapolis 500 when she was young. Now, as a senior, she has performed at the historic event for four years. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

The 500 Festival Princess Program celebrates Indiana’s most civic-minded and academically driven young women. For decades, exceptional female Purdue students have served as ambassadors of the 500 Festival, participating in service opportunities in their hometowns and Greater Lafayette in the lead-up to race day. In total, 33 princesses — matching the number of drivers in the Indy 500 — represent a variety of colleges and universities from across Indiana. Meet the five young Boilermakers representing Purdue as part of this year’s 500 Festival Princess Program. This story is part of a monthlong, behind-the-scenes look at Purdue’s storied history with the Indy 500.

Purdue at the Indy 500: Golduster Sophia Strain reflects on what a day dancing at the Indy 500 is like

I went to the Indy 500 when I was younger, but I didn’t know I was hearing the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band the whole time until I was able to be a part of it in college as a Golduster. It’s kind of hard to believe that I am a part of something I was listening to when I was 5 years old. I feel so special and honored to be a part of one of Purdue’s great traditions. And Purdue has a lot of them; no other school can compare.

Participating in the Indy 500 means you’re a part of Indiana history. This tradition is already 100 years old, and you know it will continue for hundreds of more years, so it’s really nice knowing I am contributing to that legacy. It has so much history and will continue to be history. I’m so thankful for my four years being a part of something so much greater than myself.

It’s very loud at the Indy 500. You hear the band playing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the crowd roaring and the cars racing by. The blacktop under your feet is very hot, and it feels and smells like a garage in the summer. We’re right there on the fence up against the starting line. It gives you so much adrenaline to be surrounded by it all.

I love dancing on the winner’s circle right next to the World’s Largest Drum. Everyone’s walking by to see us, and it’s like we’re bringing a piece of Purdue to Indianapolis. It’s probably equivalent to game day with just how much fun it is. I love it.

This tradition is already 100 years old, and you know it will continue for hundreds of more years.

Sophia Strain
Senior, communication, ’22

This student spotlight is part of a special series highlighting Purdue’s many connections to the Indy 500. Thank you to Sophia Strain (senior, communication, ’22) for sharing your story with us.

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