Jim Nabors has been the opening act for the Indy 500 for 42 years, and his final performance for be this Sunday. Nabors will sing “Back Home Again in Indiana,” which is known for his annual rendition of the song.
On May 21, the Los Angeles Times reported that the actor had secretly married Stan Cadwallader in 2012. The pair began dating in 1975 and have been together ever since. Three years later, Nabors began his opening act for the Indy 500.
“It’s really a remarkable thing for me. It’s the highlight of my year because it’s 500,000 of my closest friends and they do make me feel like I’m their best friend,” Nabors said of his yearly performance.
The actor went on to say he feels “so blessed” for his career and the incredible people he’s met because of it.
The Andy Griffith Show alum first became the opening act for the event in 1972. Nabors told KITV4 that while he still performs he’s ready to settle down in his macadamia nut farm on Maui alongside his partner, Stan.
As part of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the pre-race ceremonies of the Indianapolis 500 feature several patriotic songs. The most noteworthy and most popular traditions are the annual singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” and the victory lane bottle of milk. The race has always been scheduled in conjunction with Memorial Day.
In 1997, the race was rained out on Sunday, and the start was rescheduled for Monday. 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.
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. In March 2014, Nabors announced that the 2014 race would be his final performance.