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Two days before the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, a tradition known as "Thurby" brings tens of thousands of locals (and a few others) to Churchill downs to celebrate Kentucky's day at the Downs. This year, the EKU Marching Colonels, the marching band of Kentucky's university, were the featured musical act.

The rain cascaded in sheets, as it often does during times of traditional gatherings of tens of thousands of people at Churchill Downs, but the spirits of the Marching Colonels would not be dampened.

The EKU Marching Colonels under clouds.

Shortly after a threat of dangerous weather, a brief downpour and the foreboding sight of low-hanging blue and gray clouds over the historic racetrack, and a few minutes later than scheduled, the Marching Colonels paraded to the left of the winner’s circle, formed up, and the familiar notes of “My Old Kentucky Home,” rolled across the downs, as fans came to their feet to cheer and sing along.

Marching Colonels

The journey from Richmond to Louisville was only about 90 minutes, but the band had been getting ready to play “Thurby” for months, practicing for several hours a week in preparation.

“This was such a great opportunity for our students to get to play in front of tens of thousands of people and to promote EKU,” said Dr. Timothy Wiggins, assistant professor of music education.

The Marching Colonels played their renditions of My Old Kentucky Home and a mix of classics and modern tunes.

The set list included the following:

“My Old Kentucky Home”


“Hand Clap/Sweet Dreams”


“Up Town Funk”


“Don’t Stop Believin’”

“Feel it Still”

“Hail, Hail Eastern Maroons”

“Thurby” was the first time in EKU history the Marching Colonels had performed during the week of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.