Leppla era comes to an end at Indianapolis 500
Marching in the footsteps of 87 years of band students preceding them, members of the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band again take center stage at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 28, when they play for the race's opening ceremonies.
The band, which makes its final appearance under the leadership of retiring director Dr. David Leppla, also participates in the IPL 500 Festival Parade in downtown Indianapolis on May 27.
To celebrate Leppla's retirement, track officials hope to take Leppla on a spin around the 2.5 mile oval in an official 500 Pace Car. Earlier in May they had offered him the opportunity to circle the track in a special two-seater Indy race car, but Leppla was too tall to fit in the car. The day wasn't a total loss, however, as Leppla got the chance to suit up, have his picture taken with Al Unser Sr. and chat with the legendary driver.
The public's first glimpse of the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band, under Leppla's direction, comes at IPL 500 Festival Parade t hemed “Celebrate the Spectacle” this year to honor the history and tradition tied to Indianapolis 500. The parade starts at noon on May 27 and will be made up of 75 units including nationally-known celebrities, costumed characters - Jimmy Neutron, The Wild Thornberrys, Scooby Doo and others – plus marching bands, specialty units, floats and giant helium balloons.
The 33 starting drivers of the Indianapolis 500 will serve as honorary grand marshals for the parade, riding atop official Indy 500 Chevolet SSrs and Corvettes in the traditional rows of three, with the 2006 winner of the pole position bringing up the rear.
A crowd in excess of 300,000 is expected for the parade. There are stretches of the parade route that 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 $13.50 to $27.50; call Ticketmaster at (317) 239-5151. The IPL 500 Festival Parade will be televised nationally on ESPN2 from 6– 7:30 p.m. EDT and locally on WISH TV 8 from 8 – 10 p.m.
The 500 Festival Parade was added to the race month activities in 1957 and the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band has appeared in every parade since its creation.
It was the marching band's first director, Paul Spotts Emrick, who forged the initial relationship with the Indianapolis 500 in 1919, and the band has played for the opening ceremonies at the track every running of the 500 since that time.
Each year Purdue invites bands across the Midwest to participate in a separate parade of bands which occurs at the Indianapolis 500 racetrack on the day of the race. In 2006, there are 24 high school bands from eight states participating, with bands coming from as far away as Florida and New York . The Greater Lafayette area is represented by the Pride of Tri-County Marching Cavaliers from Tri-County High School in Wolcott.
Other Indiana bands come from Elkhart Memorial High School in Elkhart, Elmhurst High School in Fort Wayne, Jennings County High School in North Vernon, John Glen High School in Walkerton, North Knox High School in Bicknell, Rochester High School in Rochester, Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, South Dearborn High School in Aurora, Speedway High School in Speedway, Taylor High School in Kokomo, Tri-County High School in Wolcott, and Wes-Del High School in Gaston.