55 years of tradition: Inside the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers marching in the annual 500 Festival parade in 2016. (Photo Provided/Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An iconic Indianapolis group is celebrating 55 years of making music on some of the city’s biggest stages.

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers are a staple at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Colts games. They are also busy around St. Patrick’s Day.

Many might think they are professional musicians, but in reality they are a diverse group of volunteers that have kept the music going for more than five decades.

“We are all about tradition. We love Indianapolis,” Kimble Richardson said.

Every week, dozens of people from all walks of life, including yoga teachers, hair dressers, marketing professionals, a UPS man, and even a pre-schooler, gather for practice.

“It’s not our career, it’s a hobby,” Connie Summers said.

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers do have some unique fame because of their history at the track and also they’re the only pipe band in the world that plays for an NFL team. In 2006 they became affiliated with the Indianapolis Colts as the Horseshoe Pipes and Drums, and in 2014 they became a part of the pre-game show.

“I still get goosebumps, when I play or hear Amazing Grace… Really, I get choked up,” Richardson said.

He is a newcomer to the group, just two-and-a-half years in as a side drummer and dancer.

“Usually we get like ‘What’s under your kilt?’ You know, stuff like that,” Richardson said.

Others have spent most of their lives with the Gordon Pipers, like Connie Summers, who joined with a friend back in 1968.

“She quit and I stayed,” Summers said while laughing.

Now she’s the pipe major and a leader in a group tangled in Indianapolis tradition that is far from it’s final note.

“If you’re feeling down and you play your bag pipes, it’s refreshing. It’s great. Takes away your worries,” Summers said.

The Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers is always accepting new members.

“It’s a privilege to play with this band,” Richardson said.

For more information on practice times and upcoming performances, visit the Indianapolis 500 Gordon Pipers website.

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