The event was two days a go, but the after images keep flashing before my eyes. The fireworks display, Thunder Over Louisville marks the official start of the Kentucky Derby Festival which climaxes with a two-minute horse race the first Saturday in May. Year after year, this fireworks show is usually the largest in the country and has become a Louisville tradition. I attended with my son Michael and our friends Jeff and his son, Holden. If you are wondering what this has to do with the usual content of my blog…well it’s just across the river from where I make my art. The bridge in the distance in the above image is the one that has appeared so many times before in my posts. Louisville is where it is because of the Falls of the Ohio. Following are a few of my images from this event.
The newspapers reported that 700,000 people attended this year’s show. The weather was clear, bright and sunny, but turned cool after sundown. People begin choosing the best spots to view Thunder fairly early in the day. If you arrive late, you may have to settle for a less than prime spot. All the hotels and taller buildings facing the river are packed with viewers and many fund-raisers and corporate parties are occurring. Looking for a place to park your car? Spots within walking distance of the action were asking for and receiving $20 to $30 dollars a space. We took the bus which was a lot cheaper! Across the river in Indiana, the situation is the same. People are jamming the riverbank and facing Louisville. Their view takes in the city’s skyline. Here are folks by the river and sitting under one of the world’s largest clocks.
For entertainment, there is always people watching. It’s an international crowd and we also receive visitors from all over the United States. The number of nonresident automobile license plates climbs dramatically. There is lots of food, drink, and expensive colorful souvenirs all creating a festive atmosphere.
One of the big daylight attractions is an airshow. The skies above Louisville’s riverfront becomes a showcase of mostly military aviation. The noise some of the fighter jets can make is incredible. Vintage aircraft fly alongside their counterparts in the current inventory. Here’s a view of one skydiver in the show…
…and one of the more amazing aircraft, the B-1 Lancer stealth bomber which made a few quick passes before flying back to its base in South Dakota.
Of considerably older vintage are the steamboats. Louisville boasts the oldest boat still going in the country, The Belle of Louisville, but a sister vessel like the Belle of Cincinnati has made the trip downriver to take in the fireworks. The bridge above the boat is the 2nd Street Bridge and is the one I usually take to the Falls. During Thunder, the bridge is closed and becomes a feature in the fireworks show.
The fireworks are shot off of two barges anchored in the middle of the Ohio River with the 2nd Street Bridge between them. Usually there is some loose theme that is choreographed by a medley of popular tunes. Once the fireworks begin in earnest the noise is palpable. The concussion of some of the more powerful rockets hits you right in the chest! Here’s a picture with fireworks exploding off of the bridge and includes a “waterfall” of fire.
The show is the work of the Zambelli Family which has been involved with fireworks for several generations. Each year there is usually something new…a special effect or color that hasn’t been seen here before. Here’s something in a rainbow palette.
I have to say, that while I was there I didn’t pay any attention to all the digital devices people were using to capture the event. It’s when I downloaded my pictures to my computer that I noticed them!
Thunder Over Louisville lasts about half an hour of continuous major fireworks. There’s lots of smoke and afterward lots of debris from the huge crowd. For about an hour or so, traffic away from the epicenter is very slow going. It takes a couple of days for the city to put itself back in order. I often wonder what the environmental effects of all this are, but the average Louisvillian has come to expect and enjoy this spectacle. I went to the Falls the very next day and had a quieter adventure. More on that later this week.