A once-in-a-lifetime performance by the Whitehall-Yearling High School marching band was challenging but exhilarating, students said after playing twice last weekend in prerace events for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.
"The track was slanted. I've never had to march like that before," said Whitehall-Yearling junior Rebekah Revadelo, 17, who plays clarinet.
Revadelo and the rest of the Rams' marching band performed at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26 prior to the race.
The racetrack, like many others, has banked curves that allow cars to grip the pavement at high speeds as drivers launch into and out of each turn between the flat straightaways.
"It was a hot one, but the kids did a great job," said Kelley Gilbert, director of the Whitehall-Yearling marching band.
"It was really exciting that we were marching on the same track where the cars would soon be racing," Revadelo said.
Sophomore Hailee Franklin, 16, who plays alto saxophone, said she, too, was excited to perform and that the band played as well as or better than it did during the numerous practices that preceded it.
"We sounded great and kept it going to the end," she said.
On May 25, the day before the race, the marching band performed in the 63rd annual IPL 500 Festival Parade, named for its sponsor, Indianapolis Power and Light.
The 2-mile parade route on the streets of downtown Indianapolis was locally televised.
"Saturday was the hardest I'd ever worked, but (it was) exciting because we knew we were on TV," Revadelo said.
It was a lengthy route, she said, but the band endured through temperatures approaching 90 degrees.
"They sounded great (May 25) and we got compliments from the parade organizers," Gilbert said.
The band also got close to a few drivers.
The Row 2 drivers -- Ed Jones, Colton Herta and Will Power -- were directly behind Whitehall's band in the parade.
Gilbert said last weekend's performance was the biggest for Whitehall-Yearling in more than a decade and is believed to be the Rams' first out-of-state performance since the marching band played at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, about 10 years ago, Gilbert said.
The trip to Indianapolis was announced in early April. Gilbert knew several months earlier but was prohibited from publicly speaking about it until the organizers of the IPL 500 Festival Parade formally announced the parade lineup.
The band sent a video of its performances to the selection committee as part of the application process and received an email saying it had been selected, Gilbert said.
The Rams selected three pieces specifically for the Indianapolis performance: the Rams' fight song, "This is My Country" and the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun," with a nod to its lyrics, "She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now."