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Seeing a community come together for race day

Golden Girl Amanda Coy has performed with the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band at the Indianapolis 500 since her freshman year as the Girl in Black. (Photo by John Underwood/Purdue University)

Golden Girl Amanda Coy has performed with the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band at the Indianapolis 500 since her freshman year as the Girl in Black. (Purdue University photo/John)

Since 1919, the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band has performed on race morning, opening the day’s festivities with live music and entertainment. Since 1946, Purdue has accompanied the majority of the “Back Home Again in Indiana” performers, bringing the historic anthem to life every year. Purdue has also participated as the host band for the AES 500 Festival Parade, held the day before the race, since the parade’s inception in 1957. 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: Golden Girl Amanda Coy is grateful to be the first band member to set foot on the track before the race

It’s the coolest moment when we turn the corner of the Indy 500 track. You see all of the people in the stands, and you are the first thing they’re all looking at. It’s an incredible moment where you just feel so grateful and powerful in the spotlight. You get to showcase what you love doing, which, for me, is performing with the band and twirling.

As the Golden Girl, I lead the band onto the track. I have to keep in eight-to-five step marching so the band can stay together, especially when we go around turns. So, while I’m twirling, I’m thinking about spacing out my steps, making sure I’m keeping my distance, leading the band accurately, and knowing what twirling moves to do so I don’t move too fast or slow. 

We also participate in a parade the day before the race, and it’s fun as the twirler because when you start it off, they immediately blow confetti at you. You’re trying to dodge and catch the baton in the midst of confetti, which is a fun challenge.

I love performing on the track, but the starting ceremonies are also very cool. We get to be right there and see everything. The families of the drivers walk past us and high-five us. We get to see how emotional of a journey it is for them and how much they’ve worked toward this moment.

It’s such a big thing for Indiana, and it opened my eyes to how important it is to have representation of local communities like Purdue at these events.

Amanda Coy
Senior, biomedical health sciences/pre-physician assistant concentration, ’22

I think it’s important to recognize that the Indy 500 happens after marching band season is over. All band members come back from their summer jobs or internships to perform because we all care about representing Purdue and being a part of the Indy 500 community. It’s such a big thing for Indiana, and it opened my eyes to how important it is to have representation of local communities like Purdue at the race.

This student spotlight is part of a special series highlighting Purdue’s many connections to the Indy 500. Thank you to Amanda Coy (senior, biomedical health sciences/pre-physician assistant concentration, ’22) for sharing your story with us.

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