Back Home Again in Indiana
The most traditional performance is the singing of "Back Home Again in Indiana" by Jim Nabors, accompanied by the Purdue Marching Band. Nabors has performed the song in most years since 1972. During the line "...the new mown hay..." thousands of multicolored balloons are released from an infield tent. This tradition has accompanied the race since 1946. The song has long been the last event in the order of the day, immediately proceeding the command to start engines.
The song, which was first published in 1917, is reported to have been first played at the race in 1919. A trackside brass band played the song as Indiana-born Howdy Wilcox was finishing the final laps to victory.
In 1997, the race was rained out on Sunday, and the start was rescheduled for Monday. Nabors (as well as the Purdue band), had left the grounds by Monday morning. Rather than find a last-minute replacement, Nabors suggested that the Speedway utilize a recording of one of his previous performances. The Speedway replayed his 1993 rendition, and it was well received by the fans. Two days before the 2007 race, Nabors canceled his appearance due to an illness. On race morning, Nabors recorded a special video greeting to the fans from his Hawaii home, which was streamed over the internet. Fans were invited to sing along with the Purdue band, and a "get well soon" message was displayed for Nabors. In 2008, Nabors made a well-received return, and received a standing ovation at the public driver meeting.
Nabors again missed the race in 2012 due to an illness. This time, the Speedway sent a television crew to his home in Maui, and recorded a performance that was played on the video boards on race morning.
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